Academic journal article Social Justice

Involving the Community in Youth Justice: "Naming and Shaming" and the Role of Local Citizen Courts in Britain and in the Former GDR

Academic journal article Social Justice

Involving the Community in Youth Justice: "Naming and Shaming" and the Role of Local Citizen Courts in Britain and in the Former GDR

Article excerpt

SINCE 2003, LOCAL AUTHORITIES AND POLICE IN BRITAIN HAVE HAD THE RIGHT TO "name and shame" children and young people as young as 10 years of age who have received an "antisocial behaviour order" (ASBO). (1) In 2005, legal safeguards to protect the anonymity of children who breach the terms of their ASBOs were removed (Muncie 2009, 320). As New Labour's antisocial behavior legislation has been designed primarily as a response to "troublesome youth," the removal of identity protection in relation to ASBOs mostly affects young people. It has resulted in the routine publication of personal details about young offenders, such as their portraits, names, and the requirements of their antisocial behavior orders. Although it is difficult to estimate how widespread this police practice is, it has been used by several local police forces in England since 2003 and continues to be, for example in Warwickshire. (2) This practice of publicly exposing young offenders is considered to be entirely disproportionate and counterproductive by the European Human Rights Commissioner, and the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (2007) has declared the practice to be a breach of children's right to privacy (Muncie 2009; Stephen 2006). Britain, however, is not the first country to allow local authorities to shame juvenile delinquents in public.

Whereas the current trend for "naming and shaming" juvenile offenders at the community level in Britain seems at first sight to be inspired by community notification schemes for sexual offenders in the United States, (3) another influence can be seen in the concept of "reintegrative shaming" (4) that is being discussed in the current restorative justice discourse. (5) Despite their shared neglect of the individual right to privacy, the two tactics should not be mixed up too easily. The former approach blames and stigmatizes the named individual as a criminal other and, hence, a permanent outsider. "Reintegrative shaming," at least in theory, proposes various local forms of publicity--for example, through local citizen courts and youth conferencing that includes offenders and victims--to produce shame in individuals in order to increase their willingness to cooperate in the process of reintegration. This process is actively organized and supported (morally, socially, and economically) by local authorities.

Besides their many punitive features, New Labour's youth justice reforms also introduced many elements of restorative community justice, such as the involvement of citizens in local mini-courts, offender-victim mediation, or reparation and action plan orders (Muncie 2009, 329). It is especially this development that shows parallels to the adjudication of deviant and delinquent juveniles in the former German Democratic Republic (GDR). Although situated in very different historical and political contexts, and motivated by different political imperatives, the strategies employed to govern "troublesome youth" in both historical contexts display some discernible similarities.

One of these parallels is the increased use of publicity against young offenders, as a strategy of prevention through deterrence and for reintegrative purposes, and as a way of governing public perceptions of police effectiveness. A second similarity lies in the active involvement of citizens in the judicial process at the local and residential level. Similar to the several thousand local citizen courts called "dispute commissions" (Schiedskommissionen) that existed all over the GDR to divert minor cases from the formal courts, citizens in England and Wales have become engaged in youth justice matters on a broad basis in so-called youth offender panels (YOP) since 1998 (ibid.). Young first-time offenders with minor antisocial behavior offenses are referred by a court to such lay mini-courts where local citizens, the victim and his or her family, and a representative from the local youth offender panel decide upon restorative requirements for the offender to which he or she has to agree in the form of a contract. …

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