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The Controversies of Child Imprisonment: Messages from Research

13:00 – 16:30, 10th December 2015

The seminar will engage with a series of controversial questions arising out of research concerning the imprisonment of children and there will be ample opportunity to consider, discuss and debate the implications for policy and practice.

This Making Research Count conference brings together some of the leading researchers in the youth justice field.

Carolyne Willow, author of Children Behind Bars (Policy Press, 2015), started her career as a child protection social worker, and then took up specialist roles promoting and protecting the rights of looked after children and care leavers. She ran the Children’s Rights Alliance for England (CRAE) between 2000 and 2012, after which she spent two years researching and writing her latest book. Other publications include ‘People Should Be Helped To Feel Safe’. Child Protection and Safeguarding in Young Offender Institutions, Secure Training Centres and Secure Children’s Homes (Association of Independent Chairs of Local Safeguarding Children Boards, 2015), Doing Right by Children. Making a Reality of Children’s Rights in the Family and the Juvenile Justice System (CRAE, 2011) and Children’s Right to be Heard and Effective Child Protection (Save the Children Sweden, 2010). Earlier this year, Carolyne co-founded Article 39, an organisation fighting for the rights of children within institutional environments: http://www.article39.org.uk/.

Using the social work concept of ‘rule of optimism’, Carolyne will catalogue the abuse and neglect suffered by children in prison, and advocate the closure of these damaging institutions.

Professor Barry Goldson currently holds the Charles Booth Chair of Social Science at the University of Liverpool. He is also Visiting Professorial Research Fellow at the Faculty of Law, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia (since 2010) and Adjunct Professor at the School of Justice, QUT, Brisbane, Australia (since 2014). His most recent authored and/or edited books include: Comparative Youth Justice (Sage, 2006, with Muncie), Dictionary of Youth Justice (Willan, 2008), Youth Crime and Juvenile Justice (an edited three-volume set of international ‘major works’, Sage 2009, with Muncie), Youth in Crisis? ‘Gangs’, Territoriality and Violence (Routledge, 2011), Youth Crime and Justice, 2nd edition (Sage, 2015, with Muncie) and Re-imagining Juvenile Justice (forthcoming, Routledge, 2016).

Building upon Foucault’s observation  that the ‘prison is dangerous when it is not useless’, and drawing upon, a wealth of international research and practice experience, Professor Goldson will outline the ‘dangerous’ impositions of child imprisonment alongside its ‘useless’ outcomes in respect of crime prevention and community safety. He will further address two key questions. First, in the face of such evidence why do children continue to be imprisoned? Second, how do we account for the ebbs and flows of child prisoner populations over time (within the same jurisdictions) and over space (between different jurisdictions).

Ian Cummins is Senior Lecturer in Social Work at the University of Salford. With recent high profile cases highlighting the need to rethink the approaches taken to young people in police custody, Ian will discuss his research looking at vulnerability in police custody, with a particular focus on the needs of 16 and 17 years olds.

Professor Neal Hazel will join the panel discussion. Neal is Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Salford.  He recently completed a period as HM Deputy Chief Inspector at Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation for England and Wales (HMIP), introducing changes including the strategic purpose of the wellbeing of children at risk of reoffending, and designing a new impact-focused inspection method (Q&I).  He was also involved in HMIP’s recent thematic inspection of youth resettlement (2014).

Neal’s youth justice research is focused on providing useful policy and practice messages for both government and the third sector.  He has led more than 25 funded research projects, including the national evaluation of the Detention and Training Order (2002) and the YJB resettlement consortia (2012).  He also directed a study of young offenders’ experiences in youth justice (ESRC), a comparison of YOI regimes (YJB), and has published two cross-national comparisons of youth justice systems (1998 & 2008).  He was consultant to the National Audit Office review of youth justice, and regularly advises organisations campaigning for juvenile justice reform overseas.  He is currently producing a series of research reports and practitioner guidance documents on custody and resettlement as part of a five-year project with Nacro, “Beyond Youth Custody” (www.beyondyouthcustody.net). Twitter: @NealHazel

The seminar will be of particular relevance to: academic researchers; those with an interest in youth justice policy and children’s rights; and practitioners working with young people in youth justice, social work, probation, community development and youth work settings.


UPDATE: The presentations from the event are available to view and download on SlideShare.


UPDATE: The full film of the event is also available to view through our YouTube channel.