‘Just a wee boy not cut out for prison’

An article published in Criminology and Criminal Justice highlights the experiences of 14 young males aged 16 and 17 in one Scottish Young Offenders Institution (YOI) on their journeys to custody.

The research explores whether the policy intentions of the Whole System Approach (WSA) are being achieved in practice, by documenting the lived experiences and views of young people on their journeys through the youth and criminal justice system to their eventual arrival in custody.

Key findings include:

  • The young people’s journeys often started with a childhood steeped in adversity, with multiple adverse experiences, social work involvement, and poor school experiences a common feature
  • While many layers of support had been put in place for the young people, these had not, for whatever reason, managed to stem young people’s journeys to custody
  • While many respondents spoke positively about their experiences of the Children’s Hearings System, none were still subject to compulsory measures. All young people with experience of this system deemed the termination of their Compulsory Supervision Order to be a negative experience
  • Young people frequently described the adult court system as a harsh experience, which was difficult to participate in and to understand
  • Participants had experienced a number of Community Orders via the court but reported significant difficulties in complying with these measure
  • Less than half of the respondents reported having previously been in secure care due to their offending, but those who had reflected positively and spoke fondly about the environment and the relationships and support from staff
  • For many of the young people this was not their first experience of detention in a YOI, and there were a range of views and experiences of custody

For suggestions on how we can strive for a more consistent implementation of the WSA, see Fiona’s blog here.

Download ‘Just a wee boy not cut out for prison’: Policy and reality in children and young people’s journeys through justice in Scotland.

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Children's and Young People's Centre for Justice
University of Strathclyde
Lord Hope Building, Level 6
141 St. James Road Glasgow G4 0LT

(0141) 444 8622


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