About the Comparative Youth Penality Project

The Comparative Youth Penality Project (CYPP) aims to understand developments in the punishment of children and young people over the last 30 years, and to consider how penal culture is changing with respect to young offenders.

The CYPP will produce a comprehensive overview and comparison of penal policy and practice across four Australian states (NSW, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia) and internationally with England and Wales.

The project draws on a theoretical model of penal culture (emerging from the ARC funded Australian Prisons Project) and a multidisciplinary approach with expertise drawn from law, social work, sociology, social policy, criminology and penology. The CYPP utilises a mixed-methods research methodology including legal research, documentary analysis, qualitative interviews and quantitative analysis in order to provide an in depth overview of the key legal, policy, social and cultural dimensions of change from the 1980s to the present.

The project seeks to understand:

  • What are the defining features of contemporary juvenile justice penality?
  • How has youth penality changed since the early 1980s across the comparative jurisdictions?
  • How have changing approaches to youth penality impacted upon particular social groups including racial minorities, Indigenous youth, young women and young people with mental and cognitive disabilities?
  • What, if any, jurisdictional differences are to be found in discourses on community safety, the nature of childhood and youth (including child welfare and protection), the appropriateness of rehabilitation and the character of punishment practices for youth?
  • How has the development of a human rights framework impacted on penal law, policy and practice as applied to youth? What impact, if any, has a children’s rights framework had on differentiating youth justice from adult penal systems?

The CYPP aims to:

  • Provide a national and international comparative analysis of major issues arising from the increased use of youth detention;
  • Analyse the reasons for variations between youth detention and community order rates across the jurisdictions studied;
  • Provide specific analysis of matters relating to youth punishment, including changes in sentencing law and practice, and administrative changes in youth penal policy; and
  • Have a significant social impact through the understanding and explanation of the reasons behind these approaches, and through stimulating public debate about the nature and costs of youth penal policies.

Project Studies

Research team