You will be placed into custody if you are ordered by a court to serve a custodial sentence. This means that you must serve your sentence in a closed, secure setting.

There are three different types of accommodation in which you could serve your custodial sentence, according to your needs, age and offence. If you are 21 or over you will be sent to prison, rather than be given a custodial sentence.

According to Home Office figures, only 4% of the young people dealt with by the police every year receive custodial sentences.

Your sentence

When you initially get into trouble, behave anti-socially or commit minor offences, you will usually be dealt with by other, less serious measures than a custodial sentence.

Punishments may include fines, community rehabilitation orders and curfews. These can be given without you going to court.

At this point it is important to make an effort to resolve any issues which are likely to make your behaviour worse.

More serious offences such as burglary or violent crime will result in you having to go to court. The court can then give you a custodial sentence.

This will have to be served in a closed, secure institution.

These institutions are Secure Training Centres, Secure Children’s Homes and Young Offenders Institutions.

If you are found guilty by a court you will have to fill out as Asset assessment. This will look at your needs, level of vulnerability and history to decide what kind of sentence you should be given and where you should serve it.

Remand to Local Authority Accommodation and Secure Remand

If you have committed an offence then the court may decide that you should be looked after by the local authority. This is called a remand to local authority accommodation.

It means that the local authority can decide what kind of accommodation you should be placed in, unless the court has specified in your sentence.

A secure remand is given by a court when a young person commits a particularly serious offence or is a repeat offender. According to this, the young person will usually be placed in either a Secure Children’s Home or a Secure Training Centre.

A Detention and Training Order

The most common form of custodial sentence is a Detention and Training Order. This can be given to a young person between 12 and 17 years old.

The sentence will last for anything for between 4 months and 2 years.

You will spend the first half of this sentence in custody and the second half in the community. During the second half of the sentence you will be under the supervision of a Youth Offending Team.

You may also be under Intensive Supervision and Surveillance if you are considered to be either high risk, have a significant history of offending or are a persistent offender.

Section 90

A Section 90 is an extremely serious custodial sentence given for an offence that would earn an adult at least 14 years in prison. This is given for offences such as murder and rape.

The maximum sentence for a Section 90 is the maximum adult sentence for that offence, which could be life imprisonment.

Section 91

A Section 91 is a custodial sentence for committing a very serious offence. The length of the sentence could be the same as the maximum adult sentence for that offence. Again, this could be life imprisonment.

If the sentence is for less than four years then you will be given a parole hearing half way through the sentence. If this is successful then you may be able to leave custody half way through the term of the sentence and serve the remainder in the community under supervision.

Intermittent Custody

An intermittent custodial sentence is designed to help the sentenced person remain in touch with their family, community and job. It is served part time, either during weekdays or weekends.

These are only given to people who have committed a serious crime but are not considered a serious risk to the public.

It is not given to sex offenders or those who have committed serious acts of violence or burglary.

How age affects sentencing

One of the factors that affects where you are placed in custody is your age.

  • Secure Training Centres are for young people up to the age of 17
  • Secure Children’s Homes are for those aged 12 to 14 years old
  • Young Offenders Institutions are for young offenders between 15 and 21 years old.
  • Anyone offender over 21 will be sent to adult prison.

Custodial institutions

There are four main custodial institutions; Secure Training Centres, Secure Children’s Homes, Young Offenders Institutions and prison.

Secure Training Centres

Secure Training Centres are purpose-built centres for young offenders aged up to 17. There are four of these centres in England.

There is a high ratio of staff to young people in a Secure Training Centre in order to give the most individually tailored care and supervision.

The staff will include a number of qualified social workers.

A Secure Training Centre is a secure environment where you can be educated and helped to rehabilitate back into mainstream society. Each resident is given a tailored programme to help them develop as an individual.

According to your individual programme you will be given formal education for 25 hours a week.

Facilities such as healthcare, education, training, food and accommodation will all be provided on-site.

Secure Children’s Homes

Secure Children’s Homes are for young people aged between 12 and 14, for girls up to the age of 16 and boys deemed vulnerable.

Secure Children’s Homes will concentrate on your physical, emotional and behavioural needs. They aim to give young people the individually tailored support to resolve the issues that led them to commit an offence.

Secure Children’s Homes are run by local social services and overseen by the Department of Health and the Department for Children, Schools and Families.

These are relatively small institutions, with between 6 and 40 beds and a high staff to young person ratio.

Young Offenders Institutions

Young Offenders Institutions are run by the prison service and the private sector and are for young people aged between 15 and 21 years old.

There is a lower staff-to-young person ratio in Young Offenders Institutions than any of the other institutions. They are therefore less geared towards attending the individual needs of each resident. This means they are not suitable for vulnerable residents, such as young people with drug misuse problems or special educational needs.

Young Offenders Institutions accommodate higher numbers of residents than other institutions and are organised in wings – like an adult prison would be. Male and female residents are kept in separate wings.

If your sentence is for longer than four weeks you will be given a sentence plan. This plan aims to help you get the most out of your time in custody and prepare for life when you are released.

Medical care for most illnesses is provided within the institutions by a healthcare team.


Offenders over the age of 21 must serve their custodial sentence in prison.

Education in custody

All young people in custody should receive the same access to education and training as those in mainstream education.

It has been shown that getting a good education will make people much less likely to re-offend when they are released from custody.

Secure Training Centres

Within Secure Training Centres education is provided by staff on-site. Education is not just confined to classroom time but is addressed throughout the day. Learning concentrates on literacy and numeracy as well as extra-curricular activities and social interaction.

Secure Children’s Homes

Education is provided by the local authority or public, private and voluntary education providers. This will include learning and offence-related activities to help you adjust to mainstream education and training.

Secure Children’s Homes will offer work based training as well as studying literacy, numeracy and key skills.

All learning is focused on developing participation and you as an individual.

Young Offenders Institutions

Young Offenders Institutions offer a range of education classes and practical training courses.

You may also be able to join a pre-release course, which prepares you to tackle things like accommodation, getting the right benefits, drug dependency and family issues before you leave custody.

Advice and Support

There are two national children’s charities that provide young people with confidential support and counselling (better known as advocacy services).

They will help you to access services, talk through your concerns and resolve any issues you have found whilst in custody.

Young Offenders Institutions may also have a Chaplaincy, which will attend to your religious and spiritual needs. The Chaplain will be able to provide for all religions.

Who can help?

The Youth Justice Board aims to prevent youth crime and help children and young people. It has lots of helpful advice and information for children and young people, parents and carers and victims of crime:

The Children’s Society provides support for vulnerable children and young people. Check out its website at

The Prison Reform Trust works to make sure the prison system is fair and effective for everyone. Visit its site at

You can also visit the National Association for Youth Justice at to find out how this organisation helps children and young people in trouble.

The Howard League advice line is available via the following free telephone number – 0808 801 0308 – and can be used by young people in custody who have legal issues that they require assistance with. The Howard League will provide legal advice and assistance and may represent you in a legal setting.

The crime reduction charity, Nacro, also has a free telephone number that prisoners and ex-offenders can call for information and advice on resettlement – 0800 0181 259.

Lockdown Magazine is for and about young people in custody. Check out its website at:

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