Year

2007

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Department of Sociology - Faculty of Arts

Abstract

This thesis examines Youth Justice Conferencing schemes in New South Wales through the lens of Foucault’s analytical approach of governmentality. In doing so, it highlights a range of under-explored dimensions of Youth Justice Conferencing that rarely become issues in traditional implementation studies or even phenomenological projects. It highlights quite different understandings of the juvenile offender. This case study offers a perspective on early conferencing practice in New South Wales. While the practice has since been evaluated in terms of the outcomes for the juvenile offender, the practitioners’ roles have not been fully researched. This thesis provides reports obtained directly from the front line—practitioner interviews—that are later evaluated as a snapshot of the establishment of reputedly a new approach—the 1997 Youth Justice Conferencing scheme in New South Wales—using a governmentality analytic to reveal new tensions, contradictions and insights missed by other studies. These tensions include those between police and convenors, and between ideas of self-regulation and the autonomy of practitioners, which are useful in reassessing the scheme and contributing to the criminal justice debate. I conclude my thesis arguing that the empirical study of ‘how’ the juvenile offender is constituted has brought some insights into how identities are constituted and constitute themselves. The empirical research reveals ‘how’ the juvenile offender is constituted at the ground level. The practitioner’s discourse referred to aspects of the juvenile offender’s personal identity that are brought to bear in conferencing. These aspects are primarily used by the practitioners to build resistance and alternative positions, but have also demonstrated how the constitution of the juvenile offender is an ongoing process of re-inscription through differing professional practices and ideologies. An analysis of the interviews demonstrated that the themes of ‘personalisation’, ‘active citizenship’, ‘support’, ‘consumerism’ and ‘system participation’ begin to enhance our understanding of the operation of Youth Justice Conferencing schemes in New South Wales and their interrelationship within a broader political context establish and shape what we understand as juvenile offending. While I was interested in power and discourses, the thesis is really about the way practitioners constructed the technologies and rationalities of governmentality of the population of juvenile offenders. Some of those were state constructed, and practitioners were expected to follow them. Given it was such a new program, practitioners in many instances developed their own approaches in the absence of written codes, manuals or training in the early stages of the programs. This is why this study is so interesting. I used documentary evidence but was also able to uncover the way a diverse range of professionals develop and implement new technologies or adapt existing technologies derived from their own professional training or backgrounds to a new population group.

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