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Crimcast is a virtual resource devoted to critical conversations about criminology and criminal justice issues. Our blogposts, twitter feeds, podcasts and other content provide an overview of trends, research, commentary and events of interest to criminal justice practitioners, academics and the general public. CrimCast is sponsored by The Center for Crime and Popular Culture, St. Francis College, Brooklyn, NY.

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Student Post: Youth Crime: Is Imprisonment a Suitable and Effective Solution? 

Nickie Phillips

Issues surrounding youth crime and justice are one of the longest-standing and most highly debated areas within criminology.  There are many arguments surrounding the imprisonment of children and young offenders, particularly in relation to custodial sentences and whether they are appropriate and effective. There is no single, definitive principle of youth justice in the UK, but according to Hall, the philosophies of youth justice are four-fold and include welfare, punishment, rehabilitation and education.  There is much controversy surrounding the punishment of young offenders in particular, and emphasis is placed on different factors according to changes in time and politics.  This is particularly significant in recent years with the ‘punitive shift’.

As a result of this punitive shift since the 1990’s, the UK has seen considerable focus on punitive approaches in managing youth crime driven by an intense desire for stricter punishment and responsibilisation of young offenders.  According to Goldson, however, the imprisonment of children and young offenders is merely a matter of political convenience and the result of incompetent responses to, and failure to manage, youth crime through other methods.  This approach is supported by current government plans to build a super-prison to manage over 300 children and young offenders.  According to the Howard League, however, children’s prisons are volatile and dangerous environments which are ineffective at rehabilitating young offenders and are not suitable environments for young people. It is argued, therefore, that more emphasis should be placed on alternatives and that imprisonment is not an appropriate response to youth crime.

During a recent visit to East Moor Secure Children’s Unit, it appears that the four philosophies underpinning youth justice are attempting to be implemented in practice; but how effective are these philosophies in reducing youth crime?

According to the statistics for East Moor, 70% of young offenders released from the unit re-offend within the first year and many are subsequently returned to the unit.  Much emphasis is placed on education at East Moor and on getting the young people to address their offending behavior. However, if recidivism rates remain this high, it has to be asked how effective the imprisonment of young offenders is, particularly in relation to rehabilitation and how this can be addressed. The cost, (per person/per annum) of detaining a young person in an institute such as East Moor is up to £220,000. As a result, if the risk of a young person leaving the institute and reoffending is so high, arguably, imprisonment is not an effective method of rehabilitation and the money could be better spent on identifying and implementing alternative strategies.

During the visit, it was also highlighted that 90% of young offenders admitted to East Moor come from families with a recent history of offending behavior.  Perhaps, this highlights the ‘welfare’ philosophy of youth crime and therefore more emphasis should be placed on managing the welfare of young people and addressing the external factors which may contribute to them committing crimes and ending up in institutions. If a young person is admitted to East Moor, or a similar institute, then returned to the same environment and circumstances which may have contributed to their initial offending their chances of re-offending remain high.

Another factor for consideration when addressing the welfare of young offenders surrounds the disproportionately high number of children in these units suffering from mental health or conduct disorders which may be a significant contributory factor in offending.  The resources at East Moor are good, with medical and mental health professionals available as required. However, 20% of the young people there have self-harmed and, as a result, it can be argued that locking up young people with such issues is only going to exacerbate the problems, therefore ethical implications surrounding the welfare needs of young offenders need addressing. It may be more appropriate for these issues to be addressed in the community, and incidentally, by concentrating on treating these underlying problems, the risk of repeat offending would reduce as a result.

The punitive shift may explain why recidivism rates for youth crime remain high despite the education and support provided by institutes such as East Moor.  Perhaps, Goldson’s claim that prison is a political convenience - a result of failure to manage youth crime through other means - may offer some insight into what the focus should be in order to change the future of youth justice for the better.  However, the government’s plans to introduce a super-prison for youths would only exacerbate the problem, continuing to focus on punitive approaches, and avoid dealing with the underlying issues surrounding youth crime and justice and finding suitable alternatives.

Questions:

  1. What are your views on the government’s plans to introduce a super-prison for young offenders?
  2. Do you think that punishment is an appropriate way of managing youth crime or should more focus be placed on alternatives?

 

Post by Rebecca Baird-Parker

 

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net by  sakhorn38

Student Post: 10 tips to help you on the day of the group presentation

Nickie Phillips

The actual group presentation can be very daunting – trust me, I know! When I do a presentation I get so unnecessarily nervous, even though I know everyone that I’m presenting to. Because of this, I’ve developed a few little tips and tricks that can help everything run smoothly.

 

group presentation image

  1. Preparation is key – failing to prepare is preparing to fail. Therefore, knowing you have everything prepared, under control, and completed to a high standard should stop you from being so nervous and make it easier for you.
  2. Before the actual day, make sure you fully familiarise yourself with the whole presentation as this will make it a lot less nerve wracking for you – ignorance is not always bliss!
  3. I always turn up to a presentation with a piece of paper that has prompts for what I’m going to say – I keep these very short, sometimes only key words, as I feel that the less there is written down the more natural it will come across and it is far less likely that you’ll jumble up your words (it’s happened to all of us!).
  4. Do a full run through of your presentation with your group in your last couple of meetings. This is important to ensure everything is in a sensible order, and also lets you time it which is vital as you will often have a strict time limit.
  5. Relax! It’ll all be over soon. Try to keep yourself as calm as possible and remember that everyone is probably just as nervous as you are. You are all in the same boat!
  6. Do not rush the presentation as your audience will not be able to appreciate all your hard work. So remember to speak at a steady pace.
  7. Sometimes, you will have a video clip in your presentation – think about where you place this. If you feel like your section leaves you speaking for a length of time that you are uncomfortable with, place the video clip somewhere in the middle (if this is a relevant place) as this will give you a quick breather before going on to speak again.
  8. Do not read word for word off the slides for the whole time. This is unnecessary as the slides are there for the audience to look at, and it doesn’t let you present all your information effectively. You will achieve far more if you speak naturally and out to the audience.  “It’s really obvious when someone hasn’t done proper research and is just reading off the screen. It’s really boring to watch!” Gemma – Criminology student.
  9. Add some good quotes to your slides and some key points, then use your prompts and expand on these vocally – this shows your depth of knowledge in the particular subject, and believe it or not you will come across a lot more confident than you think.
  10. Finally, take a drink of water if you feel it might help your nerves, and more importantly breathe!

I know that presentations are not everyone's cup of tea but the more you practice now in a safe environment the better prepared you will be if you have to do it in a job interview and eventually in your job.

Good luck!