THIRTY years ago I was privileged to do a road tour around Britain for the Welcome Trust to talk about my new charity in Bournemouth which provided counselling for young people in schools.

In order to attract funding I had compared the costs of the counselling service with the increasing ongoing costs to society of troubled youngsters leaving school and going into a life of crime.

It is not just the cost of HMP Guys Marsh and similar prisons but also the future cost to the families, the courts, social security and to the NHS that needs to be taken into account.

Targeted counselling in the early stages of loss, which accounts for most of the issues with which these young people are faced e.g. parental bereavement/divorce/separation/family disputes/domestic violence etc, has been proven to be cost effective.

One prisoner costing £48,682 a year would have bought approximately 162 boys at least six hours of counselling when it mattered the most.

When they were vulnerable and needing support and guidance in school, so that they could gain from their education and become productive members of society.

Instead many of them became angry, isolated, disenfranchised, and in order to find that essential sense of belonging they join a criminal underbelly of society.

The only way to reduce the prison population is to tackle the behaviour at source.

Prevention will always be more effective than rehabilitation.

I write as a retired teacher and qualified counsellor.