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Towards Just Welfare - A Consideration of a Current Controversy in the Theory of Juvenile Justice

NCJ Number
British Journal of Criminology Volume: 25 Issue: 1 Dated: (January 1985) Pages: 31-45
R J Harris
Date Published
15 pages
The argument that Great Britain's Children and Young Persons Act 1969 failed because of its welfare approach is misconceived. A better conceptual framework for social workers and other professionals who have accepted arguments of the 'back of justice' movement is needed.
The failure of the Act was inevitable because of theory, implementation, and ideology problems. For example, reformist rehabilitory ideas and the influence of 'misfit sociology' with its emphasis on diversion and deinstitutionalization created tensions in the Act. The law came into force the same day the social services department, the agency most concerned with its implementation, was created. In addition to organizational chaos, there have been serious conflicts between the demands made on social workers as supervisory agents of the court and their own occupational culture. Despite its welfare approach, the Act has resulted in more removals of young offenders from their homes. The peculiar relationship between justice and welfare also has contributed to increases in punitive sentencing and sentencing disparities. The American experience with retributivist sentencing shows that problems in the juvenile justice system do not disappear with the demise of welfare. An improved framework for social work in the juvenile system links both welfare and justice theories. Social workers need to develop additional skills and knowledge in problem-solving strategies and increase their critical awareness of claims made by advocates of differing positions. Welfare, like justice, should be limited by the nature of the offense, and the additional involvement of welfare professionals in a case should be voluntary. Approximately 40 references are provided.