Doing Justice to Young People: Youth Crime and Social Justice

Doing Justice to Young People: Youth Crime and Social Justice

Doing Justice to Young People: Youth Crime and Social Justice

Doing Justice to Young People: Youth Crime and Social Justice


There is an impasse in current thinking about youth crime and justice, represented by punitive and harmful practices, and liberal objections to these processes on the other, based predominantly on arguments for 'rehabilitation'. This book aims to arrive at an alternative strategy for resolving the tensions between young people - especially those on and beyond the margins - and the social world which frames their lives.

The book is split into three sections:

  • Part 1 focuses on young people, their attitudes and behaviour;
  • Part 2 considers the way in which their behaviour is constructed as criminal and then addressed;
  • Part 3 considers the limitations of current practices and potential alternatives.

Within this broad framework, the differentiated and contested nature of young people's experiences and our (and their) ideas of 'youth' can be counterposed to prevailing one-sided and often discriminatory assumptions about them; in order then to open up questions about the nature and purposes of the youth justice system, and to introduce some possibilities for reconstructing it according to fundamental principles of rights, welfare and social justice.

Doing Justice to Young Peoplewill be essential reading for anybody working in or studying youth crime and youth justice.


Youth justice in England and Wales has taken a wrong turn. The early to mid 1990s witnessed a seismic shift in the ways in which young people were dealt with by the criminal process, as evidenced by the subsequent rises in criminalisation and incarceration which have by now been very well documented. It has also been suggested that this was not a feature simply of changing moods and practices in one jurisdiction, but had an international dimension (Muncie and Goldson 2006). It seems to be a distinctive feature of late modernity that our recurrent fears about the threat posed by our young people have been intensified and refocused in recent years and, as a result, there has been a parallel increase in the determination of the ‘normal’ institutions of society to find sure and certain means of quantifying and controlling the ‘problem’. This preoccupation with the ‘risk’ posed by young people who do not conform with conventional norms has, by now, been well documented and extensively criticised, but it has nonetheless resulted in a range of highly programmatic and controlling forms of intervention which seek to anticipate and/ or prevent further manifestations of unacceptable behaviour.

There seems to be a persistent and largely insatiable appetite in some quarters for the demonisation of young people, or large elements of the youth population and their unruly qualities. This is not new, of course, and dates back at least to Shakespeare’s time, but it is also hugely problematic in that it creates an intensely politicised . . .

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