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Justice and Society Research Centre

Earlier this month, Caroline Lanskey and Yannick van den Brink (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam) organized an online symposium for over 100 youth justice practitioners on ‘Inequality in youth justice decision making: A comparative study of underlying mechanisms and possible solutions’.  During the symposium, they presented initial research findings  from their comparative research study which aims to generate knowledge on how children’s early life course disadvantages (e.g., poverty, problematic home situation, educational difficulties, lack of access to services, experienced discrimination) might play into youth justice decision-making processes, either directly, or indirectly via the educational system or child welfare system.

The exploratory qualitative research study  comprised focus group discussions and  interviews with experienced youth justice professionals in England & Wales and the Netherlands, including judges, prosecutors, defence lawyers, police, youth probation officers, child protection workers and youth justice and educational services. It was funded by a funded by a Cambridge Humanities Research Grant.

 The research identified various potential underlying mechanisms of inequality in youth justice decision-making. These mechanisms are to be found at different spheres of influence of youth justice decision-making, from the micro level (e.g., personal biases of decision-makers) to the macro level (e.g., societal inequalities permeating youth justice decisions). They also discussed how these mechanisms of inequality could be effectively addressed. Publications with the findings of our project will  follow in the course of this year.