Young People, Crime and Justice

Article excerpt

YOUNG PEOPLE, CRIME AND JUSTICE Hopkins- Burke, R. (2008). Cullompton: Willan. pp256. £58.00hbk ISBN 978-1-84392-368-8 £19.99pbk ISBN 978-1-84392-367-1

This is a timely volume reflecting on the current concerns about crime and anti -social behaviour associated with young people and on the attempts of the Labour government since 1997 to respond to these concerns. In doing so, the author establishes that anxieties about the conduct of young people are no new phenomenon and that successive panics have arisen throughout the modern period. At the present time, however, in late modernity, perceptions of risk and insecurity have resulted in increased measures of social control, both formal and informal, impinging upon young people's lives.

Roger Hopkins -Burke is here attempting to provide a rounded basic text, written from an explicitly left realist perspective, which means that he has sympathies with both the attempts of the Labour administration to respond positively to young people offending or at risk of offending and with the concerns raised by critics of the reformed youth justice system. The book is divided into three broad sections:

i. Young people, criminality and criminal justice

ii. Explaining youth criminal behaviour

iii. The contemporary youth justice system and its critics.

These sections are in themselves fairly introductory but, taken together, do provide a challenging analysis of the way that contemporary British society views young people and the measures in place for control, discipline and, significantly in the author's view, tutelage.

The first section outlines how these three elements have featured throughout history in the social policy relating to young people, and how the emphasis has changed at different periods. The discussion of tutelage as a means of social control via education, employment and activities such as youthwork and social work is of particular relevance to the latter stages of the book. Here tutelage features prominently again, but more explicitly as a means of attempting inclusion and reintegration within the Third Way politics of New Labour.

The first section of the book provides useful context, examining the changing constructions of childhood and adolescence throughout modernity and the resultant twists and turns in policy. The second section looks at theoretical explanations for young people's criminality. While it covers all the main schools of thought organised into rational actor, biological, psychological and sociological theorising, a student wishing to develop an in depth understanding would be advised to supplement the material in this volume - perhaps by visiting Hopkins -Burke's own explorations of criminological theory in earlier publications. …