PHD BLOG- Here.Me.Now: the voicing of aspiration by youths living in ‘gang’ labelled communities

img_5618This weeks PhD blog is by Charlene Crossley.

Charlene is a 2nd year PhD student at Manchester Metropolitan University. She is undertaking a PhD that examines the aspirations of young people in areas labelled as ‘gang’ effected. She does this using interesting and innovative methods. Here  she offers a short summary of her PhD work to date.

If you would like to hear more from Charlene you can tweet her @Charrrr_xx or email C.crossley@mmu.ac.uk. Charlene is also presenting a poster and an oral presentation at the BSC conference on the 6th July 2016.

 

Here.Me.Now: The voicing of aspiration by youths living in ‘gang’ labelled communities

Do we know what youth transition means? The young people in my research certainly don’t. They know they want a good job, to live in a decent area and have a family. Does it matter how they get there? Is there a clear path? Here.Me.Now looks at the goals and aspirations of young people living in communities labelled as gang effected. Questioning if it is the application of labels like this this that allow the path to become fragmented?

I’m challenging the idea that young people have clear transitions journeys and that they lack aspiration. Aspiration IS important; it dictates where we will aim to be as an adult. Within gang affected communities it is often assumed that young people’s aspirations are to simply join a gang. Therefore, aspiration is not a value that is nurtured or prioritised within these communities; particularly by institutions of social control. The implication is that already disadvantaged communities are expected to support young people’s transitions to adulthood without resources to encourage those young people to aim higher. This research will update the literature with a contemporary account that looks at diverse lives by moving away from a focus of traditional England and with it the school to work transitions and a move into contemporary England where young people are living in very different societies.

The methodology for this research is rather large, but what a great way it has been to engage young people. All too often as researchers we assume we are the experts. Well, here’s a thought – why not situate the young people as experts of their OWN lives. After all, they’re the ones living it. That’s what I decided to do in adopting participatory action research (PAR) as my methodology. At two diverse youth centres in areas of Manchester, completing ethnographic research over a period of eight months, the young people would often talk about the lack of opportunities and how those were limited further by the ‘gang’ label that was attached to their community. It was only through the identification of these issues that I developed a number of research tools to use with the young people. They wrote letters, engaged in mapping, participated in a blog, discussed local media and did activities with flash cards. This has allowed the young people to tell me what the issues are for THEM, in ways that they have chosen. This has allowed young people to be heard, giving them a VOICE. At the end of the research, it is envisaged that the young people will disseminate the research findings from their own experiences to individuals within the wider community.

Researchers all too often assume that individuals want to participate in the research. Even with the development of participant led tools, there is an expectation that they want to be involved and at all stages, which is not always the case. What this process has allowed is for young people to discuss as much or as little as they want. To generate discussion on issues that are important to them. To listen to them and not make assumptions about what we fell is important to us in order to answer what WE want. The methodology hasn’t been without its challenges. From the building of trust to weeks of no engagement. However, what this has allowed further is for the process has been truly participant led.

So, who then gets to decide successful transition is? Is it just school to work? Yes, the literature has extended to cover leisure and home life, but isn’t transition different for different people? Is it, for example, that a successful transition can be that they haven’t got involved in crime or have completed high school? Aspiration is ultimately crucial in guiding YP through their journey, towards what the government would categorise as a ‘successful transition’. However, the labels attached to the particular neighbourhoods in my study do not support this linear transition. This means that these young people are automatically written off as having no aspiration. In fact, certainly for the young people in my research, they have high aspirations, but they have difficulty in achieving their goals. As one young person has said to me, ‘I want to be a PE teacher but I know I ain’t getting there’.

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PhD Blog: ‘Transitions from Juvenile to Adult Penal Custody’

To showcase the array of academic talent within our postgraduate community, the BSC postgraduate blog will regularly post contributions from criminology postgraduate students. This week our blog is an initial literature review by Jayne Price.

Jayne Price

Jayne is a first year PhD student at the University of Liverpool. She is completing a CASE studentship funded by the ESRC. This is collaborative project with Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons. Jayne’s PhD uses primarily qualitative methodology to examine the experiences of children and young people who are held within secure institutions; young offenders institutions, secure training centres, and secure children’s’ homes. Her research focuses upon their transition period to the adult penal system which typically takes place upon their eighteenth birthday.

Email: jayne.price@liverpool.ac.uk                 Twitter: @Jaynelprice

Transitions from Juvenile to Adult Penal Custody

The United Nation Convention of the Rights of the Child 1989 [UNCRC] outlines international standards of children’s human rights (Heath, et al, 2009). Signed and ratified by the UK Government, numerous articles within it provide guidelines on dealing with children in conflict with the law (United Nations, 1989). The vulnerabilities of incarcerated young people are well documented in academic research (Goldson, 2002, Beal, 2014) and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (1997: 5) stated that the Young Prisoner estate gave them; “greatest cause for concern”. Within England and Wales, young people aged 18-25 represent one-third of the prison system, yet only 10% of the national population (Livingstone, Amad and Clarke, 2015).

Guidance issued by National Offender Management Service (2012) advised that young people can transition from the juvenile secure estate to the adult penal system upon turning eighteen. An establishment may also request discretion from the Youth Justice Board to retain responsibility for the individual for the reminder of their order (Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation, 2016). Offender managers within the adult probation service reported receiving approximately two transition cases annually (Criminal Justice Joint Inspectorates, 2012) although the exact number is not published and it is therefore difficult to identify the number and experience of those affected.

Although children are considered such until the age of eighteen, maturity is more difficult to define due to; “a range of complicated variables, including biological changes, social transitions and life experiences” (Maruna, Coyle and Marsh, 2015: 158-159). Life-stage experiences that guide the passage from ‘childhood’ to ‘adulthood’ such as education to employment (Roberts, 2009: 13) are extended and stretched in contemporary society. Upon speaking to the House of Commons Justice Committee (2016a: 32), within their investigation into young adult offenders, Lin Hinnigan, the Chief Executive of the Youth Justice Board, stated an “extended adolescence” is taking place. Such transitions are more difficult to negotiate whilst incarcerated.

The Transition to Adulthood alliance acknowledged that numerous support services fall away at this time of increased vulnerability; “a poor youth to adulthood transition can exacerbate existing problems and increase the risk of involvement in crime.” (Cited in Youth Justice Board, 2012: 3). Harvey (2005:232) examined the experiences of young adults aged 18-21 entering and transitioning an establishment. Prisoners experienced; “uncertainty, losing control and freedom, separation and loss, and a preoccupation with safety”, which led to increased psychological distress. Young people sampled within a joint inspection report of transitions reported feeling under-prepared for the change in service expectation in them (Criminal Justice Joint Inspectorates, 2012).

Young people who have previously been in care (‘looked after’) are over-represented in the secure estate. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (2011) and the Transition to Adulthood alliance reported previously looked-after young people are particularly vulnerable during transition as they tend to have had experience of trauma and poor or limited family support (Livingstone, Amad and Clark, 2015). A report specifically designed for practitioners working with girls and young adult women by Beyond Youth Custody (Bateman and Hazel, 2014) stated that due to the small population their age specific needs were often neglected.

The House of Commons Justice Committee (2013: 63), called for earlier planning and better information sharing; “reforms […] will never reap their full potential benefits unless the transition from youth to adult provision is managed more intelligently.” The decommissioning of Ashfield young offenders institute [YOI] in 2013 gave good insight into concerns that occur during transition. Inadequate planning left young people agitated and unsure and transitional plans were not focused on the best placement for the individual. Information sharing was also lacking between the Youth Justice Board and the establishment (Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons, 2013).

The importance of adequate planning and supporting an individual through transition was highlighted within the National Offender Management Service (2012) protocol, however only 52% of children and young people in secure training centres reported having a care plan. Within YOIs’ 41% of young people reported having a training, sentence or remand plan, the lowest figure in five years, (Redmond, 2015). Within the adult services, only one-third of plans were considered adequate; which could leave interventions incomplete (Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation, 2016: 160).

The limited data on transitional experiences reflects wide variation across establishments of staff training, planning and information sharing. This demonstrates a failure to adhere to the principles of the UNCRC and the need for service provision to go beyond the age of eighteen to support the individuals’ through the transition. The vulnerability of young people who experience incarceration leaves them vulnerable to wider negative outcomes (Beal, 2014) and it is clear that a poor transitional experience stands only to exacerbate this. Whilst the number of individuals scheduled for transition may be small, they are also a very vulnerable group. Arguably the current approach demonstrates that due to the small numbers of young people affected their needs are being overlooked resulting in a lack of preparation for this significant moment in their experience of secure custody.

Bibliography

Bateman, T. and Hazel, N. (2014) Resettlement of girls and young women: research report. [Online] Beyond Youth Custody. Available from: http://www.beyondyouthcustody.net/wp-content/uploads/421_research-report_04_8_w-front_cover.pdf (Accessed: 18th April, 2016).

Beal, C. (2014) ‘Insider accounts of the move to the outside: two young people talk about their transitions from secure institutions’, Youth Justice, 14 (1), pp. 63-76. [Online] DOI: 10.1177/147325413520362. (Accessed: 26th April, 2016).

Criminal Justice Joint Inspectorates. (2012) Transitions, an inspection of the transition arrangements from youth to adult services in the criminal justice system: A Joint Inspection by HMI Probation, HMI Prisons, Care Quality Commission, Ofsted, Healthcare Inspectorate Wales and Estyn. October, 2012. [Online] Manchester: Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation. Available from: http://www.cqc.org.uk/sites/default/files/documents/cjji-transitions-thematic.pdf (Accessed: 21st December, 2015).

Committee on the Rights of the Child. (2007) General Comment No. 10: Children’s Rights in Juvenile Justice. CRC/C/GC/10 25 April. [Online] Geneva: United Nations. Available from: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/crc/docs/CRC.C.GC.10.pdf (Accessed: 15th April, 2016)

Goldson, B. (2002) Vulnerable inside: children in secure and penal settings, London: The Children’s Society.

Harvey, J. (2005) ‘Crossing the boundary: the transition of young adults into prison’, in Liebling, A. And Maruna, S. ed. The effects of imprisonment, Devon: Willan.

Heath, S., Brooks, R., Cleaver, E. And Ireland, E. (2009) Researching young people’s lives, London: Sage.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons. (1997) Young Prisoners: A thematic review. October, 1997. [Online] London: Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons. Available from: https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2014/08/young-prisoners-rps.pdf (Accessed: 15th January, 2016).

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons. (2011) The care of looked after children in custody: a short thematic review, May, 2011 [Online]. London: Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons. Available from: https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2014/08/Looked-after-children-print.pdf (Accessed: 8th April, 2016).

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons. (2013) Report on an unannounced inspection of the decommissioning of HMYOI Ashfield 11 – 14 February 2013 [Online]. London: Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons. Available from: http://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/prisons/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2014/03/ashfield-inspection-report-feb-2013.pdf (Accessed: 19th April, 2016).

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation. (2016) Transitions arrangements: a follow-up inspection January, 2016 [Online] Manchester: Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation. Available from https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprobation/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2016/01/Transitions-arrangements-follow-up-report.pdf  (Accessed: 20th January, 2016).

House of Commons Justice Committee. (2013) Youth Justice: Seventh Report of Session 2012-13. [HC 339] February, 2013 [Online]. London: The Stationary Office. Available from: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmselect/cmjust/339/339.pdf (Accessed: 19th February, 2016).

House of Commons Justice Committee. (2016) Oral Evidence: Young Adult Offenders, [HC 397] January 2016 [Online]. London: House Of Commons. Available from: http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/justice-committee/young-adult-offenders/oral/27782.html (Accessed: 20th January, 2016).

Livingstone, I, Amad, S. And Clark, L. (2015) Effective approaches to working with young adults: a guide for probation services [Online]. London: Transition to Adulthood. Available from: http://www.t2a.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Probation-guide_Web-Ver4.pdf (Accessed: 11th January, 2016).

Maruna, S., Coyle, B. And Marsh, B. (2015) ‘Desistance from crime in the transition to adulthood’, in Goldson, B. and Muncie, J. ed. Youth crime and justice. 2nd edn. London: Sage.

National Offender Management Service. (2012) The transition process: guidance on transfers from under 18 young offender institutions to young adult Young Offender Institutions London: Ministry of Justice.

Redmond, A. (2015) Children in custody 2014-2015: an analysis of 12-18 year olds’ perceptions of their experiences in secure training centers and young offender institutions [Online]. London: Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons and Youth Justice Board. Available from: https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2015/12/HMIP_CP_-Children-in-custody-2014-15-FINAL-web-AW.pdf. (Accessed: 18th January, 2016).

Roberts, K. (2009), Youth in transition: Eastern Europe and the West, England: Palgrave Macmillan.

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