Telford, Mark and Santatzoglou, Sotirios
‘It was about trust’ - Practitioners as policy makers and the improvement of inter-professional communication within the 1980s youth justice process
Legal Studies, 32, (1), . (doi:10.1111/j.1748-121X.2011.00209.x).
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The study of criminal justice policy making is generally approached from the perspective of structural variables (e.g. social, cultural or economic), or, if inclined towards agency-led approaches, on the policy-making activities of ‘elites’. The potential of practitioners to shape policy has been relatively neglected. This paper explores a striking example of practitioner-led criminal justice policy transformation: the decline in the use of custody for juveniles in England and Wales in the 1980s. The focus of the study is on the communicative origins of a philosophical turnaround in youth justice localities through the empowerment of youth justice practitioners. Drawing on empirical sources (including reflective interviews with key participant-observers) the paper explores, in depth, the occurrence and the meaning of local structural transformations. It is argued that the emergence of trust relations between participants in local youth justice processes was the key development behind the transformation of the state of penal culture towards one of ‘communicative rationality’ which, in turn, enabled the dramatic reduction in the use of custody. It is suggested that proponents of more moderate penal policy could draw valuable lessons from this episode.
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