‘Cruel and unusual punishment’: an inter-jurisdictional study of the criminalisation of young people with complex support needs – 2018

Although several criminologists and social scientists have drawn attention to the high rates of mental and cognitive disability amongst populations of young people embroiled in youth justice systems, less attention has been paid to the ways in which young people with disability are disproportionately exposed to processes of criminalisation and how the same processes serve to further disable them. In this paper, we aim to make a contribution towards filling this gap by drawing upon qualitative findings from the Comparative Youth Penality Project – an empirical inter-jurisdictional study of youth justice and penality in England and Wales and in four Australian states. We build on, integrate and extend theoretical perspectives from critical disability studies and from critical criminology to examine the presence of, and responses to, socio-economically disadvantaged young people with multiple disabilities (complex support needs) in youth justice systems in our selected jurisdictions. Four key findings emerge from our research pertaining to: (i) the criminalisation of disability and disadvantage; (ii) the management of children and young people with disabilities by youth justice agencies; (iii) the significance of early and holistic responses for children and young people with complex support needs; and (iv) the inadequate nature of community based support.

Eileen Baldry, Damon B. Briggs, Barry Goldson & Sophie Russell
Journal of Youth Studies, Volume 21, 2018 – Issue 5