chapter  4
44 Pages

Responding to youth offending

The social construction of youth justice
ByStephen Case

This chapter explores the widespread use of punitive custody for children in the first half of the nineteenth century and how this exemplified a punitive, justice-based response to behaviour of 'youth offending'. The socially constructed definitions and explanations of youth offending have informed and shaped official 'youth justice' responses to youth offending. The Youth Offenders Act 1854 legislated for changes in structural responses to children/young people demonstrating problems through offending behaviour; encouraging new ideas about how children/young people should be treated by the State. The chapter presents the nature of youth justice over history, particularly the nature of change in its socially-constructed components and the role of key stakeholders in their re/construction. The structural youth justice developments of the 1900–1950 era, namely juvenile courts and borstals, were extended by increasing the age of criminal responsibility from 7 to 8 years old under the Children and Young Persons Act 1933.