Ministry of Justice
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Early lights out for young offenders

Early bed-times are to be enforced for young offenders for the first time, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling announced today. 

Under new proposals, young people will have to be in their cells with lights out by 10.30pm – creating more routine and structure to their lives and meaning they can’t stay up all night watching TV.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said:

The public expects that serious offenders face prison – that is right. But it is also crucial that young people, most of whom have had chaotic and troubled lives finally get the discipline so badly needed to help turn their lives around.

In some prisons young people are allowed to go to bed when they please. I don’t think that is right. Stopping this inconsistency and introducing a strict “lights-out” policy is all part of our approach to addressing youth offending. Those who fail to comply will face tough sanctions.

The new changes will affect young people between the ages of 15-17 who are currently serving custodial sentences in one of the five public sector under 18 young offenders institutions (YOIs) in England. Those who do not observe the new bed-times will be penalised and lose privileges like access to a television.

This government is committed to reforming the youth estate by putting education at the heart of custody and giving young people the right skills and self-discipline to gain employment and training upon their release.

The amount of education being delivered in YOIs is also being doubled to ensure that young people are being given relevant training and the opportunity to develop skills; for example in basic literacy and numeracy. Proposals are underway to introduce the first Secure College Pathfinder in 2017 – it will focus on education and training and will help put a stop to the vicious cycle of reoffending that exists at the moment. The proposals are currently being debated in Parliament.

Notes to editors

  • Young people have to be in their cells by 8pm.
  • There are currently 827 young people serving custodial sentences in YOIs. (Latest snapshot from April 2014)
  • The number of young people in custody has consistently fallen year on year – the following table shows the average YOI population.
Financial Year Average YOI Population (under 18s)
2009/10 1,998
2010/11 1,610
2011/12 1,517
2012/13 1,149
2013/14* 837

Further information on youth population figures.

  • The changes will come into effect on 3 August 2014 and governors will be notified by letter.
  • New education contracts will come into effect in late 2014, which will seek to more than double the number of hours contracted education that young offenders receive each week. At the moment, young offenders receive an average of 12 hours a week contracted education, though it ranges from 5-15 hours across the YOI estate. The contracts will be overseen by the Youth Justice Board, rather than the Education Funding Agency, ensuring that education is fully integrated into a new regime for young offenders in custody.
  • The government have put forward proposals in the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, currently going through Parliament, to create secure colleges as a new form of youth detention accommodation with education at the heart.
  • Secure colleges will have strong educational leadership, with a head teacher or principal at the core of the establishment’s leadership team. They will put learning, vocational training and life skills at the core of a regime which educates and rehabilitates young offenders.
  • A Secure College Pathfinder is planned to open in the East Midlands in 2017, which will provide young offenders with strong discipline, while focussing on rehabilitation and education.
  • The 5 public sector under 18 YOIs are Cookham Wood in Kent, Feltham in London, Werrington in Stoke-on-Trent, Wetherby in Yorkshire, and Hindley in Wigan
  • For further information please contact the MOJ news desk on 0203 334 3536
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