Risks, Needs and Discrimination: Examining the Fairness of Assessment and Planning Frameworks for Youth Justice Interventions

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Law Faculty

Abstract

The Fellowship aims to contribute to the developing literature on the intersections between youth deviance, parenting and institutional discrimination. Understandings of youth crime as triggered by individual and familial risk factors have anchored themselves in criminological theory and the UK's youth justice practice (Farrington 2003). However, research has exposed the selection effects of institutions that propel young people into the system not only based on the seriousness of their challenging behaviour, but also according to their family's reputation and their social disadvantage (McAra and McVie 2007).
As such effects have remained largely unexplored, my doctoral research examined whether practitioners within youth justice, the police, education, early intervention, mental health and the voluntary sector treat young people in trouble with the law and their parents differently according to the family's social status, as well as the impacts of institutional working practices on these processes. I found that interventions with young offenders focus on managing their risks and vulnerabilities, but this kind of treatment might be leading clients of different socioeconomic backgrounds on diverse pathways.
During the proposed Fellowship, I will, firstly, develop my doctoral thesis into a monograph, my postdoctoral papers into journal articles, and attend international conferences to disseminate my research findings to fellow academics. To maximise the impact of my doctoral research, I will return to the institutions that participated in my study and present my results to them in the form of a report. I will raise awareness about my findings to the general public by sharing my work on academic platforms, the project's social media account and website. To encourage knowledge exchange, I will organise a one-day symposium that will bring together academics, policy-makers and practitioners within youth justice.
In the course of the Fellowship, I will, secondly, advance my teaching and research-related skills. Within Oxford's Law Faculty, I will contribute seminars in the subjects of Youth Justice, Crime and the Family, Qualitative Methods as well as Criminology and Criminal Justice. I will share my findings with early career researchers and senior academics in the fields of criminology, law and socio-legal studies by partaking in workshops and seminar series offered by the Law Faculty. I will also collaborate with researchers from other fields (education, psychiatry, internet studies) as part of the Excluded Lives Project that is examining the practices of school exclusion and the trajectories of children post-exclusion across the UK from a multidisciplinary perspective.
Thirdly, I will carry out further limited research based on my doctorate. In my postdoctoral study, I will examine whether, how and why assessing young people's risks and needs when designing youth justice interventions can play out discriminatorily. I will explore the different aspects of discrimination (e.g. according to social class, race, ethnicity, gender, disability) and how they intersect when practitioners employ risk assessment tools. I will conduct my research within one Youth Offending Team (YOT) in Oxfordshire. I have chosen this research site as YOTs provide services to children who offend or are 'at risk' of offending. Furthermore, the daily practices within YOTs are informed by standardised risk assessment guidelines that professionals are required to use.
Lastly, I will develop future grant applications with the help of fellow postdoctoral researchers, senior academics, and the Law Faculty's Research Support and Administration Team. I aim to pursue an ESCR New Investigator Grant, a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship or a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship to examine how specific political, legal and socio-cultural contexts impact upon the fairness of risk assessment within youth justice in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
 
Description My postdoctoral project explored the perceptions of practitioners on risk assessment in youth justice in England and Wales, and its implications for young offenders. Within criminological theory, risk assessment has been criticised for the questionable validity of claims made based on predicting risk and for promoting the negative views of young people 'at risk' of offending. Yet, practitioners' understandings of risk and needs, how they use risk assessment to inform intervention planning, and with what consequences for young people in trouble with the law, remain under-researched. My project drew on the analysis of 100 risk assessment forms and in-depth interviews with youth justice practitioners in a local authority in England and Wales to examine the ways in which professionals understand their practices of risk assessment, how they believe the assessment impacts youth justice interventions, and how it plays out for young people 'on the ground'. By doing so, the project created new insights into increasing the fairness of planning interventions for young offenders.

As part of the project, I presented my work at four international conferences: The Law and Society Association annual conference, the British Society of Criminology annual conference, the American Society of Criminology annual meeting, and the European Society of Criminology annual conference. I shared my findings with early career researchers and senior academics in the fields of criminology, law and socio-legal studies by partaking in workshops and seminar series offered by the Law Faculty at the University of Oxford and the Institute for Criminology at the University of Ljubljana. I also collaborated with researchers from other fields (education, psychiatry, internet studies) as part of the Excluded Lives Project that is examining the practices of school exclusion and the trajectories of children post-exclusion across the UK from a multidisciplinary perspective. I wrote a peer-reviewed article on the 'Criminological Perspectives on School Exclusion and Offending' and published the book, based on my doctoral research, entitled 'Negotiating Class in Youth Justice: Professional Practice and Interactions'. The was published by Routledge Criminology & Criminal Justice in September 2022. I also presented the findings from my doctoral and postdoctoral research to youth justice practitioners and junior and senior academics throughout the course of my project. Within Oxford's Law Faculty, I contributed to seminars in the Crime and the Family and Academic Communication Skills MSc modules. In December 2022, I held a well-attended online book launch, hosted by the Law Faculty at Oxford.

As part of my ESRC Postdoctoral Fellowship, I successfully applied for a job and worked as a Lecturer in Criminology at Keele University between September 2021 and September 2022. Since October 2022, I've been working as a Research Associate at the Institute for Criminology at the Faculty of Law in Ljubljana, Slovenia on projects related to the reform of the youth justice system and conditional release from prison in Slovenia.
Exploitation Route In the course of the Fellowship and based on the findings from my doctoral and postdoctoral research, I co-authored (together with Professor Rachel Condry) a peer-review article on the 'Criminological Perspectives on School Exclusion and Youth Offending' which has already had an effect on academics, practitioners, and policymakers in the spheres of criminology and education. I finished the manuscript for a monograph based on my doctoral research, entitled 'Negotiating Class in Youth Justice: Professional Practice and Interactions' for Routledge Criminology & Criminal Justice. The monograph was published in September 2022, and I estimate it will impact the fields of youth justice and offending, criminology, sociology, education, and social policy. I have already received positive feedback on my book by senior academics from the University of Oxford, the University of Glasgow, The London School of Economics, The Open University, Nottingham University, the University of Ljubljana, and the University of California, Irvine. I aim to disseminate my book and the findings from my postdoctoral further limited research to the practitioners that I have been working with in the course of the Fellowship.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education,Government, Democracy and Justice

 
Description My postdoctoral study has had an impact in the year that I was conducting fieldwork as part of my further limited research and presenting my preliminary findings to different audiences while teaching and dissemination. Namely, I interviewed my research participants (youth justice practitioners) across Youth Offending Teams (YOTs). I therefore always presented my study, its main objectives, and key findings up until then to senior managers and teams within particular YOTs before recruiting my participants. I also discussed my research at YOTs and police services from which I collected risk assessment forms. Therefore, the study has affected professionals within YOTs and the police. Several professionals expressed further interest in the study, so I am in regular contact with them regarding further steps. I also disseminated the findings from my doctoral research as a report to all the organisations that I worked with as part of my doctoral studies, as well as individual research participants. Since I was teaching seminars in modules Crime and the Family and Academic Communication Skills as part of my postdoctoral fellowship, I also disseminated the findings from my doctoral and postdoctoral research to postgraduate students at Oxford's Centre for Criminology. In September 2022, I published a monograph entitled 'Negotiating Class in Youth Justice: Professional Practice and Interactions' based on my doctoral thesis with Routledge Criminology & Criminal Justice. In 2020/21, I presented my work at two conferences in the US and one conference in the UK. In 2022, I presented my data at conferences in the UK and EU. I did an online launch of the book in December 2022 with an audience from the UK, US, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. I am currently analysing the data I have gathered as part of my further limited postdoctoral research (risk assessment forms by the police and YOTs; interviews with youth justice practitioners). The analysis will form a foundation for a peer-reviewed article I aim to draft in autumn 2023.
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education,Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Societal,Economic,Policy & public services

 
Description Invited talk at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, New York, US 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact In my invited online talk/guest lecture, 'Youth Delinquency and Parenting Then and Now: Examining the Perceptions of Social Class in UK's Youth Justice Practice', I presented my doctoral and postdoctoral work to postgraduate students in the fields of Criminology and Sociology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, New York, US. This way, I could share the results of my research with an international audience, which was especially relevant during COVID-19 when travel was restricted.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Talk at the Informal Seminar Series, Centre for Criminology at the University of Oxford 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact 20-25 junior and senior academics and postgraduate students from the Centre for Criminology, University of Oxford, attended my talk. In my talk, I introduced the background of my postdoctoral project, its aims, and intended outputs. My talk sparked questions and discussion afterwards, and I held several meetings with individual academics on how I should go about further postdoctoral fieldwork and disseminating the findings of my doctoral research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020