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Explaining youth custody in Scotland : the new crisis of containment and convergence

Barry, Monica (2011) Explaining youth custody in Scotland : the new crisis of containment and convergence. Howard Journal of Criminal Justice, 50 (2). pp. 153-170. ISSN 0265-5527

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Abstract

Custody in its broadest sense means safe-keeping, guarding and containment, the inference being that the individual offender is to be protected. However, in the UK, as elsewhere, custody now has wider political and public protection connotations. In England and Wales, the focus of youth custody is on public protection through punishment and offender management. In Scotland, the focus has traditionally been on offender protection, through addressing the young person's broader welfare needs, but recent trends and drivers in youth custody rates in Scotland now paint a different picture (Barry forthcoming; McAra and McVie 2010). This article describes the different approach taken in Scotland compared with England and Wales, at least up until recently, regarding the custody and care of children and young people who offend. The article identifies four key drivers to expanding youth custody rates in Scotland: (i) the earlier criminalisation of children and young people; (ii) increasingly stringent requirements imposed on children and young people who offend; (iii) the increased use of remand; and (iv) the use of shorter prison sentences with little scope for rehabilitation. The article concludes that these drivers are themselves driven by the politicisation of youth crime in Scotland and the abandonment of traditional Scottish values of minimal intervention and the paramountcy of the child's best interests.