The story behind the figures

Since 2015, we’ve been keeping you informed of the number of young people in secure care and custody. But what are the figures telling us? Debbie Nolan reports back.

Unsurprisingly there has been long-standing interest in the number of young people in custody and secure care, and trends in the number of young people held in these establishments. However, gaining up-to-date, regular and specific information and that which differentiates under 18s, males and females, young people who are convicted and untried, and young people who have been sentenced to secure care and those placed for other reasons has not always been easy.

Since January 2015, CYCJ has attempted to fill this gap by keeping you informed of the figures on a monthly basis via our e-bulletin. In December 2015 it was agreed we would publish a monthly average of the number of young people in secure care and custody and we now have over a year’s worth of data to compare. So what does this tell us?

Well, the picture is not clear cut, with the average number of young people across each of the reported domains fluctuating markedly month by month. For example, the average number of convicted males varied from 49 in June to 28 in December; for untried males from 32 in April to 14 in December; and the average number of under 18s in custody and sentenced in secure care peaked at 97 in June but in November was 66. Such variation is illustrated in this graph, which shows the monthly average number of under 18s in custody and sentenced in secure care in Scotland from January to December 2016.

What may be more useful is to know the average daily numbers of young people in each of the following groupings during 2016:

Average daily number
Under 16s in custody: 0
Convicted under 18 male: 36
Untried under 18 male: 23
Convicted under 18 female: 1
Untried under 18 female : 0
Under 18s convicted awaiting sentence: 7
Under 18s in custody: 67
Young people sentenced in secure care (based on monthly average): 10
Young people in secure care: 80

In comparing this with other data, there was an average of 66 under 18s in custody in 2014 and 62 in 2015 (Scottish Government, 2015), illustrating a slight increase in 2016.

The above data has provided a baseline to enable future comparison and monitoring of trends, with CYCJ continuing to publish monthly average figures. This is in addition to the work of the Developing Capacity and Improvement Implementation Group, and work currently ongoing by the Scottish Prison Service, Scottish Government and CYCJ to add further context to, and aid understanding of, the above data. With this increased focus, it is hopeful in the not too distant future we will have a better understanding of our young people in secure care and custody and what lies behind the data.

About our blogger

Debbie Nolan is a Practice Development Associate with CYCJ. She’s passionate about children and young people achieving their best possible outcomes. Read more.

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Children's and Young People's Centre for Justice
University of Strathclyde
Lord Hope Building, Level 6
141 St. James Road Glasgow G4 0LT

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