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Assessment of the Detention and Training Order and its impact on the secure estate across England and Wales


The Youth Justice Board commissioned a research team comprising the Policy Research Bureau, NACRO and the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies to undertake this crucial and far-reaching assessment of the Detention and Training Order (DTO). This new disposal is a central component of a dramatic overhaul of the whole youth justice system in England and Wales. Introduced in April 2000, the DTO aims to tackle persistent offending by combining time in custody with an intensive follow-up period of supervision in the community. It replaced all sentences of detention in a Young Offenders Institution for young people up to 18 years old. The project brought together a team of social research professionals from a range of disciplines with a depth of experience in criminal justice research involving young people. Commencing in June 2000, the project ran for just over two years and provided detailed information on patterns in (and changes to) national custodial sentencing patterns for young offenders. We also tracked several hundred young people throughout the course of their sentence, assessing the impact of the new disposal on their behaviour. The research provided a major contribution to the ongoing debates on what works with persistent young offenders.

What did the research focus on?

The project examined the impact of the DTO, both on the individual young offenders and the secure estate as a whole. The research had four main phases:

  • Systematic description of the application of the DTO - examining national sentencing patterns over the first year of the new order, exploring factors informing decisions to impose a DTO, identifying the offending histories most likely to attract a DTO, assessing the effects of changing demands on the secure estate
  • Tracking a sample of 300-500 young offenders though their DTO - drawing up a picture of the characteristics of the young people, recording details of the intervention, exploring the relationship between custody and community provision, measuring the extent and quality of supervision
  • Follow-up study of the 300-500 young offenders to assess outcomes in the community and after the end of the Order - measuring levels of reoffending, identifying factors influencing successful outcomes, assessing other effects on the young person. drawing out lessons for good practice in managing mixed custody/supervision sentence
  • Distilling messages for good practice in further implementation of the DTO to maximise the positive benefit.

What did the research involve?

At all stages of the project the research involved combinations of (a) data sources and (b) data collection methods, including both quantitative and qualitative. In brief, the first phase of the research involved detailed statistical analysis of national and local youth justice records, combined with supplementary information from individual case files, courts, Youth Offending Teams and secure facilities. The second and third phases included recording information from individual case files, group discussions with local youth justice agencies; face-to-face interviews with the young offenders; telephone interviews with their families; and a postal and telephone survey with youth justice workers.

Timescale and final product of the research

A final report to the Youth Justice Board was published in November 2002:

Hazel N, Hagell A, Liddle M, Archer D, Grimshaw R and King J (2002) Assessment of the Detention and Training Order and its impact on the secure estate across England and Wales. London: Youth Justice Board for England and Wales.

The full report is available on the web at:

See Publications for further details.

Last updated July 2004