Electronic tagging of young offenders is being studied as a possible way of reducing the number who get into trouble again. The Federation of Youth Groups said custodial sentences stigmatise young offenders and do little to change antisocial behaviour. It said there should be more emphasis on rehabilitation and community-based programmes, and a mediation service should be considered to replace court proceedings. The group's senior research officer, Jacky Pang Kin-fu, said opinions sought from the legal, judicial, education and social work sectors supported the 'world trend' of less punitive sentences for delinquents. 'The general view is that the offenders are young and therefore should be given another chance,' said Mr Pang. 'We are weighing the pros and cons of options being implemented abroad to see whether any of them could fit into Hong Kong.' Mr Pang said one option was to ban offenders from leaving their homes, with an electronic device to alert police if they attempted to break the rule. 'The idea is to keep the offenders away from the environment where they would re-offend under peer influence,' he said. Trials in Britain and the United States have had mixed results. 'In terms of cost, it is cheaper to recruit more counsellors to follow up on the offenders than to increase manpower and places in prison,' Mr Pang said. He said there were only about 10 counsellors to give after-care services, while probation officers at the Social Welfare Department were inundated with paperwork for court appearances. The organisation will submit recommendations on sentencing options to the Government by the end of the month. Research commissioned by the Fight Crime Committee on young offenders last year found the self-reported re-offending rate was 25.3 per cent for ex-offenders in community programmes, and 34 per cent for the institutionalised. Young offenders in prison complained of overcrowding, the small number of visits allowed, insufficient food and ineffectiveness of complaints. The Society for the Rehabilitation of Offenders said delinquents under 21 needed assistance throughout the legal process. 'They are more likely to re-offend if they found the criminal justice system to be unjust,' said Yuen Hau-sin, one of three social workers who gives support to delinquents in police stations and courts.