Young Offenders and "Risk": The New World Order

Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentation


This paper explores the notion of “risk” (the probabilistic calculation of future, problematic behaviours) in youth justice and the impact of risk management strategies on young offenders in England and Wales. The “new penology” is increasingly characterised by a managerial approach to the control of crime and has shifted the focus of youth justice from a community-based approach, which encouraged marginalised young people to take individual responsibility and to work towards community cohesion, to an exclusory regime of surveillance and risk management of those labelled “problematic”.

The paper will utilise data from a qualitative, longitudinal study which examined the experiences of 21 “high-risk, serious and persistent young offenders” (aged 13 to 17) as they moved through the youth justice process and attempted to stop offending behaviour. The research employed a phenomenological approach in order to examine the participants’ understandings of their social worlds. Detailed case-study data were collected on each participant, and included in-depth interviews, weekly ‘phone-logs’ (for a period of six to eight months), final interviews with each participant at the end of the study, and case materials (youth justice records) on each participant.

The findings from the study suggest that the labelling and risk management of young offenders is detrimental to their (re)integration with the wider community, their sense of identity, belonging, and citizenship, and their potential for change. Further, the results from the study indicate that “risk” as the main driver for work with young offenders is exclusory of many of the considerations which are vital to the prevention of future offending and increased social cohesion. The paper will conclude by exploring the implications of these findings for work with young offenders and will argue for a return to a more individualised focus on offenders’ needs that emphasises their negotiation of personal change, individual identities, and citizenship.
Period13 Jun 2013
Event title15th Annual Children's Identity & Citizenship in Europe Conference: Identities and Citizenship Education: Controversy, Crisis and Challenges
Event typeConference
Conference number15
LocationLisbon, PortugalShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational