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    Misunderstood Youth? A Psychosocial Study of Young Men Leaving Custody

    Gray, P ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1546-9333 (2008) Misunderstood Youth? A Psychosocial Study of Young Men Leaving Custody. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Keele University.


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    With nearly three-quarters of young people leaving custody re-offending within a year, it is clear that despite a decade of wide-ranging reforms and substantial investment, the youth justice system is still no closer to finding an adequate solution to the problem of young custody-leavers‟ high levels of re-offending. This thesis argues that at least part of the reason for this lies in the conceptions of subjectivity constructed by the dominant discourses in contemporary youth justice policy. In much official discourse, young offenders are constructed as either rationally-acting thrill-seekers needing responsibilisation, or incorrigibly dangerous „alien others‟ needing incarceration. However, does constructing young people in this way help us to better understand the underlying causes of their behaviour as they leave custody, both offending and otherwise? By drawing inspiration from David Gadd and Tony Jefferson’s psychoanalytically informed psychosocial conception of subjectivity, and applying it to the life narratives of a small group of young men as they leave custody, this thesis endeavours to shed new light on some of the key issues in contemporary youth justice. These include: the resettlement needs of young people leaving custody; the wider consequences of the discourses of crime control evident in contemporary youth justice policy; young people’s desistance from crime; the reliance on risk assessment tools to accurately identify need; and, the impact of increasingly tough enforcement of post-release supervision conditions. By drawing upon an approach that is sensitive to the possibility of unconscious motivations, this thesis aims to contribute to a better understanding of the behaviour of young men as they leave custody, and by doing so, counter some of the misunderstandings and misconceptions of young offenders‟ behaviour evident in much contemporary youth justice discourse.

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