The Children and Young People’s Centre for Justice (CYCJ) has been awarded a prestigious Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) Research Network Grant for its ‘Co-designing Socially Just Justice for Young Adults in Conflict with the Law’ project.
This two-phased project, a collaboration with academics at the University of Dundee, University of Strathclyde and the Glasgow School of Art, builds on findings from a previous study supporting young adults to co-design a socially just approach to justice.
It aims to translate findings into policy and practice change, and establish a multi-disciplinary research network to generate new insights into the role of community in offending and desistance, and their potential for shaping socially just communities.
‘Socially Just Justice’ is the first study of its kind to use design-led methods to co-produce solutions to issues that justice-involved young adults identify as priorities for change.
The work builds on a former study, funded by the Scottish Universities Insight Institute, which used creative and design-led approaches with young people aged 18-25 to explore questions around what social justice means to young people, challenges faced by young adults in conflict with the law, and how we can work together to make a socially just community happen.
Findings were shared in a large-scale online event and exhibition in June 2021, involving academics, policymakers, practitioners and young adults, with further outputs currently in progress.
CYCJ’s Research Lead Nina Vaswani, who is leading on the project, said:
“Young adults aged 18-25 are increasingly recognised as a distinct group, caught in a space between child and adult systems in which they do not receive the special protections afforded to children, nor the opportunities and entitlements that the majority of adults expect and receive.
“This is more evident in the justice system, where young adults are treated as adults, despite still developing the physical, emotional and social maturity to assess risks, consider consequences, make decisions or fully understand and participate in justice processes. This is compounded by the fact that young adults’ experiences of the criminal justice system are comparatively absent from research.
“Findings from our research on this topic so far have highlighted very real barriers to social justice for young adults in conflict with the law. Young adults described multiple, persistent and prolonged challenges in their communities, and relationships with police were particularly fraught, with young adults feeling targeted and discriminated against. They found it difficult to find accessible and welcoming spaces in their communities for fun, purposeful activity or support. Professionals also identified that services were often inflexible to young adults’ needs.
“The young adults often found it hard to envision a future in which they belonged and had a valued place in a supportive community. Instead, their experiences of marginalisation, discrimination, shame, stigma, victimisation and adversity had left them isolated with no-one to rely on but themselves. Yet young adults felt that safe and trusted relationships were crucial to their potential for growth and development, and expressed a desire for healing relationships with key organisations.
“We are delighted to have received this funding from the RSE, and are looking forward to working together and with young adults to develop this important work further.”
For this project, CYCJ and partners will employ design-led research methods and dialogic inquiry. Phase 1 will involve monthly creative co-design workshops with young adults and a community organisation to identify areas for change, and to co-create and implement identified actions.
Phase 2 will establish a new interdisciplinary research network of academics, practitioners, policymakers and penal reformers to explore a socially just approach to justice for young adults in conflict with the law and to develop the ideas from phase 1. This network will develop a robust and innovative approach for future empirical research and help to imagine how to build a more socially just approach to justice for young adults.
The RSE has announced the details of 27 exceptional researchers who are recipients of the RSE Research Awards programme Autumn 2021 call. Through the awardees, ten of the 15 Scottish universities are represented, with funding totalling over half a million pounds.
With an average grant value of £19,000, projects range from refugee integration in Scotland to examining polarisation and harassment in the Scottish Local Elections to decision fatigue in general practitioners; some projects also support international collaboration between researchers in Scotland and Italy, Malawi, Singapore, Spain and the United States of America.