It is argued that the pace of these changes is unprecedented in British history. The enactment, in 1998 of the Crime and Disorder Act, marked a paradigm shift youth justice policy from both the welfare oriented innovations of the 1960s and 1970s, and the diversionary measures of the 1980s.Current statistics of juvenile incarceration shows that England and Wales have the highest imprisonment rates for children and young people in Western Europe, surpassed by Turkey and Ukraine only. The indignation for this rising incarceration for young offenders is succinctly expressed the Prison Reform Trust's assertion that the present statistics of the country's children in incarceration, might 'shame' the country into 'reducing prison numbers and finding more effective solutions to juvenile crime'. As a result of this sharp increase in the number of youths and young persons in custody, as a fall out of the UK's 'newfound tough stance' on youth crime, the efficiency of incarcerating youths and children has been severally debated in academic, policy and practice settings, both on national and international scenes. An indication of lack of trust in the incarceration of young offenders as a means of reducing juvenile crime is apparent from the statement of Lord Carlile of Berriew QC, 'Child crime can only be cut effectively if we are courageous enough to recognise the failings of present provision and look for the widest range of non-custodial alternatives'. (quoted in Nacro, 2005).
In the light of the search for alternatives to juvenile incarceration, several researchers and policy makers have made strong and persuasive arguments for the reduction, or sometimes, a complete abolition of incarceration for young offenders. It is in this regard that this paper attempt to address the issue of juvenile incarceration; its appropriateness or, as a tool for containing young offenders and an analysis of alternative measures employed in other territories.
The essay shall begin with an overview of British history of youth incarceration, taking a look at the policy changes over the years, and perhaps, how it has affected the rate of young offenders. This will be followed by a look at the statistics of juvenile imprisonment over the last two decades, in comparison with the rate of re-offenders as a measure of the efficiency of incarceration in curbing young offenders. This part of the essay will end with a look at the several 'new' alternatives to incarceration been proposed or employed within the UK. The second part of the essay shall extensively review the methods and approaches to juvenile justice employed by some countries that have few of their young population in custody and yet a lower juvenile crime rate, with a view to finding viable alternatives to youth incarceration that can be imported into the UK juvenile justice system.
English history is replete with documentation of incarcerating children in specialist institutions of whatever sorts, under several guises and nomenclature. The Vagrancy Act of 1824 was considered as the first piece of formal legislation directed at criminalising criminals and non-criminals alike (Bell and Jones, 2002:25; Goldson 2004:72); still in force today, the legislation was the first to introduce the concept of 'anti-social' behaviour obscuring such core questions of justice, as put by Goldson, "the justification (or not) of formal intervention, and the legitimacy (or otherwise) of the state's power to punish" (Goldson 2004:72).
However, following the establishment of the