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Youth Justice is a key area of the current governments criminal justice policy in England and Wales. It has been the subject of an inordinate amount of recent legislation seeking to enhance the criminal courts powers to punish and prevent offending and re-offending by young people. This legislation attempts to prevent offending through criminal justice measures and there is little attempt to use non-criminal or civil law procedures to achieve the same result. This book seeks to challenge that focus and to question why delinquency in young people has been so firmly criminalized in this jurisdiction.
The book addresses the consequences of criminalization in terms of the effectiveness of the measures used as well as the implications for the social construction of youth and childhood and our attitudes towards the young. Criminalization of young peoples behaviour results in them being labeled as criminal,losing identity as an individual, losing their childhood through the process of taking adult responsibility for their actions and, in policy terms, becoming viewed as a crime problem rather than as a product of failing social policy regarding employment, education and youth culture. At a society level it is contended that the identification of young people with criminal activity and the negative public image that results creates a culture of fear and distrust which may in turn create further possibilities for criminalization of their behaviour. A comparative perspective in this work examines welfare-based responses to youth crime in other European jurisdictions and questions whether the criminal justice process is an appropriate context in which to deal with young peoples problematic behaviour.
This book has been shortlisted for the 2007 SLSA Book Prize.
Julia Fionda is Senior Lecturer and Director of the Institute of Criminal Justice in the Law School at Southampton University.
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