Three studies nested within the broader project will focus on specific comparative aspects of youth penality.
1. The vulnerable groups study will:
- Document and analyse the effects of changes in penality and punishment on specific subgroups in Australia and England and Wales, in particular Indigenous and black and minority ethnic (BME) youth, young women, and socially marginal youth including those in state care, with drug and alcohol problems and with cognitive and mental impairments;
- Assess whether youth with cognitive and mental impairments are more likely to be incarcerated now than in previous periods;
- Understand, assess and analyse why changes in penality and punishment have had such a differential impact on the identified vulnerable populations.
2. The community sanctions, post-detention, and community integration study will:
- Explore attitudes to and the place of community sanctions and supervision (including initiatives such as Anti-Social Behaviour Orders), as well as post-release and integration processes in youth justice systems in Australia and England and Wales;
- Analyse community sanctions (including breaching), parole, post-release and resettlement policy and practice for youth, and in particular vulnerable youth in detention;
- Explore whether differences in these policies and practices within and across jurisdictions produce different outcomes for youth transitioning from orders and released from detention.
3. The sentencing and remand study will:
- Explore the impact on youth of amendments to bail legislation and changes in bail practice by the courts in the comparative jurisdictions under examination;
- Chart and analyse the deployment of risk based and preventive technologies, mentalities and practices in the exercise of police discretion in monitoring juvenile bail conditions and community corrections orders;
- Understand changes in youth penality that have led to increases in the youth remand population, including in particular vulnerable youth populations;
- Document and analyse the effect on youth of statutory formulations of sentencing principles and of specific areas of change in sentencing legislation and practice, for example, ‘truth in sentencing’ and abolition of remissions;
- Examine the growth and differential availability (legislatively and administratively) of non-custodial sentencing options within and across the jurisdictions and between metropolitan and rural areas;
- Consider how various key stakeholders in the sentencing process understand detention as a sanction of last resort and the effect that this has on youth sentencing.
Risk and human rights
Running through the nested studies will be the exploration of two countervailing but core contemporary ideas impacting on developments in youth penality: risk-thinking and human rights.
- Risk discourses underpin the social construction and classification of the ‘young offender’. We will explore the impact of discourses of risk across vulnerable groups; and the importance or otherwise of such discourses to the form of youth punishment and control systems (for example, how has risk-thinking impeded or changed the development of diversionary alternatives for young people).
- Children and young people are also seen as the bearers of human rights. We will explore the relationship between discourses of human rights and discourses of youth crime, criminality and responsibility, assess the impact of human rights discourses on vulnerable groups, and determine whether national and international human rights standards have influenced youth penal law and practice in the comparative jurisdictions (for example, to what extent do statutory sentencing principles reflect human rights principles established in the Convention on the Rights of the Child).