PhD Blog – Communication is key: Why does Communication in Youth Justice Matter?

 

As we resume our PhD guest blog series after the summer break, this weeks blog is from Gabriella Simak.
Profile_PictureGabriella is in the 3rd year of a PhD in Criminology and Criminal Justice at Bangor University. Her research interests are related to youth justice policy, more specifically the use of restorative justice models in the current retributive framework of youth justice. Gabriella’s PhD is exploring how the speech, language and communication needs/difficulties affect restorative justice in the context of referral orders in England and Wales. Her project employs a mixed methods approach, including a wealth of data from interviews with YOT practitioners, Speech and Language Therapists, non-participant observation of Youth Offender Panel meetings, and case level quantitative data on young people sentenced to referral orders.
Gabriella has an MA in Comparative Criminology and Criminal Justice. Her dissertation focused on the implementation of Family Group Conferencing in Welsh Youth Justice Services, titled Youth Justice in Wales: Possibilities through the Family Group Conferencing Model.  Gabriella is originally from Canada, and completed her undergraduate degree in Criminology and Sociology at the University of Toronto – making her a truly international criminologist! This blog post showcases her PhD work to date. If you wish to contact Gabriella about her research, please email sop00f@bangor.ac.uk.
Communication is key: Why does Communication in Youth Justice Matter?

This study explored how communication impacts restorative justice measures in the context of referral orders, including whether reparation to the victim and to the wider community is possible for young people with communication difficulties in England and Wales.

Research questions:

  • How are speech language and communication needs (SLCNs) identified in Youth Offending Teams (YOTs) for young people on Referral Orders?
  • How do communication needs of young people affect the reparation process in Youth Offender Panel (YOP) meetings?
  • How young people’s SLCNs affect referral order outcomes?
    • Hypothesis: Young people with SLCNs are more likely to breach their referral orders than those without.

Speech, language and communication needs refer to “a wide range of difficulties related to all aspects of communication in children and young people. These can include difficulties with fluency, forming sounds and words, formulating sentences, understanding what others say, and using language socially” (Bercow, 2008: 13). Key research points to the difficulties young people with SLCNs face when engaging with services within the young justice system. Recent studies have estimates the prevalence of SLCNs in the young offender population to be up to 60% (Gregory and Bryan, 2007: 507), whereas 6% in the general population in the UK (Law, et al. 2010). Communication difficulties, such as lack of understanding, poor vocabulary and difficulties with expressive language have a negative impact on how young people’s behaviour is perceived by YOT (Youth Offending Team) practitioners (Gregory and Bryan, 2009: 8). Research shows that young people with low levels of language ability are likely struggle particularly with verbally mediated interventions (Bryan and Gregory, 2013: 360). Referral Orders were introduced by the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 and should operate on the restorative justice principles of responsibility, reparation and reintegration (Ministry of Justice, 2015: 10).

This project explored the impact on young people’s SLCNs on referral orders using a mixed methods approach. Twenty two YOTs with seconded Speech and Language Therapists (SLTs) were identified and approached (Five in Wales and 17 in England). Participants included: YOT Case Managers, Referral Order Coordinators, Early Intervention Officers, Volunteer Community Panel Members (VCPMs) and seconded SLTs from a total of 16 YOTs. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with participants in person, over the telephone and interview questions were available in questionnaire format for participants’ convenience. Non-participant observations of Youth Offender Panel meetings were undertaken, including initial and review panel meetings. Finally, quantitative case level data were collected from one YOT in Wales to answer the third research question.

Practitioners interviewed mostly agreed that there was a large prevalence of SLCNs in young people on referral orders and that communication is of great importance in referral order processes. Young people mask their SLCNs by adapting behaviour that may be perceived and misinterpreted as difficult by YOT practitioners. The two main themes emerging were SLT service provision and SLTs role within the YOTs and the second theme was practitioners effectively engaging and communicating with young people with SLCNs during the referral order process. There were differences of SLT service provision within individual YOTs in terms of the SLTs role, such as screening young people, referral to SLTs by YOT Case Managers, and whether the SLT was able to provide intervention for those young people with identified SLCNs. Similarities in the role of SLTs were training of YOT practitioners in SLCN awareness and engaging young people in interventions. SLTs had an important role of providing material for YOT practitioners and a consultancy role for practitioners to discuss particular cases. In Wales, there was a need for bilingual English and Welsh SLT service provision for those young people who are more comfortable using Welsh.

In terms of YOP observations, VCPMs’ level of experience in engaging young people greatly differed with more experienced volunteers engaging more effectively with young people during panel meetings. Volunteer panel members were provided information through the referral order report written by the YOT Case Manager, including the Asset assessment, which informed panel members’ approach to engaging young people in a dialogue. Reparation directly to the victim was affected by young people’s SLCNs in terms of their ability to express themselves both verbally and participating in reparative activities.

Just like any programme based on restorative justice principles, referral orders assume open communication between stakeholders. However, effective communication is lacking, a power imbalance is created which hinders reparation and restoration of the harm. Most interventions in referral order processes are verbally conducted, and require young people to understand and process complex information. Consequently identification and appropriate support of young people with SLCNs is of great importance in order to successfully complete referral orders, young people must be able to communicate with other stakeholders. Analysis of case level data on young people with SLCNs indicate that there is no significant relationship between young people’s SLCNs and their referral order completion/breach rates. Therefore the hypothesis was rejected.

 

References:

BERCOW, J., 2008. The Bercow Report A Review of Services for Children and Young People (0–19) with Speech, Language and Communication Needs. Nottingham, England: DCSF Publications.

BRYAN, K., FREER, J. and FURLONG, C., 2007. Language and communication difficulties in juvenile offenders. International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders, 42(5), pp. 505-520.

BRYAN, K. and GREGORY, J., 2013. Perceptions of staff on embedding speech and language therapy within a youth offending team. Child Language Teaching and Therapy, 29(3), pp. 359-371.

BRYAN, K., 2004. Preliminary study of the prevalence of speech and language difficulties in young offenders. International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders, 39(3), pp. 391-400.

GREGORY, J. and BRYAN, K., 2009. Evaluation of the Leeds Speech and Language Therapy Service provision within the Intensive Supervision and Surveillance Programme provided by the Leeds Youth Offending Team. Leeds% 20SLT% 20report% 20Jun% 2010a.pdf (accessed 12 December 2010).

LAW, J., GARRETT, Z. and NYE, C., 2010. Speech and language therapy interventions for children with primary speech and language delay or disorder (Review). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (3), pp. 1-79.

MINISTRY OF JUSTICE, 2015. Referral Order Guidance. United Kingdom: Ministry of Justice.

 

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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.

United Nations. (1989) The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child [Online]. New York: United Nations. Available from: http://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/crc.aspx. (Accessed: 9th December, 2015).

Williams, H. (2012) Repairing shattered lives: brain injuries and its implications for criminal justice policy [Online]. Transition to Adulthood and University of Exeter. Available from: http://www.barrowcadbury.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Repairing-Shattered-Lives_Report.pdf (Accessed: 17th March, 2016).

Youth Justice Board. (2012b) Youth to Adult Transitions Framework: Advice for managing cases which transfer from Youth Offending Teams to Probation Trusts, Youth Justice Board for England and Wales.