Earlier this month Full Fact examined a headline in the Sun that claimed that a third of ‘youth lags’ were foreigners.
What the piece was referring to was data showing that roughly a third inmates at Feltham Young Offenders Institute were born abroad.
At the time we wanted to find out how representative Feltham – and hence The Sun’s headline – were of young offender institutes as a whole.
We tried to find out how many people at young offender institutes were born abroad, but the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) told us that as no figures were published we would need to make a Freedom of Information request.
We have now had a response to our request. As anticipated, the MoJ were unable to provide any kind of information on the the country of birth of young offenders, but they were able to provide us with a snapshot of the nationality of the YOI population aged 15-20 on 30 June 2011.
Rather than two thirds of young offenders being British as the Sun’s headline suggested, 88 per cent of the population of Britain’s young offender institutes are British nationals.
Although The Sun article was discussing the population of Feltham Prison, not the make up of young offender population nationally, it is worth putting the information in context.
A direct comparison between these findings and The Sun’s article is however hindered by the fact that our figures refer to nationality, and the original piece discussed country of birth.
But whilst not directly comparable the results are nonetheless interesting as they show the problem of assuming that figures for one YOI will be replicated across institutes.
Below is a table of the top six nationalities of prisoners in young offender institutes.
Total population 9508 Percentage of total YOI pop. UK 8365 88.00% Jamaica 78 0.82% Vietnam 75 0.79% Somalia 60 0.63% Afghanistan 56 0.59% Romania 39 0.41% Unrecorded 242 2.50%