Practitioners reveal rough justice for young offenders

Young offenders are being punished more and helped less despite their often deprived backgrounds, according to a new two-year study into the youth justice system.

The research, carried out by the University of Bath, reveals that police officers, magistrates and youth offending team workers feel they are being pushed into enforcing increasingly punitive measures. They complain of relatively few practical options to help young offenders, despite the government’s stated policy to deal with the causes of youth crime.

Researcher Jo Phoenix, who analysed young offenders’ case files and interviewed over 100 youth justice practitioners, said: “What we have today is a youth justice system that metes out increasingly stringent punishments on young offenders and fast tracks them through harsher and harsher punishments.

“Information on the desperate welfare needs of young offenders is there, but in practice only punitive measures are available.”

Phoenix pointed out that the common denominator among the majority of youth offenders was poverty.

“Once they become involved in the youth justice system, state interventions inevitably focus on their emotional difficulties rather their practical needs,” Phoenix said. “Anger management classes are no substitution for attempting to do something about their home situation.”

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