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Actuarialism and Early Intervention in Contemporary Youth Justice (From Youth Crime and Justice, P 92-109, 2006, Barry Goldson and John Muncie, eds. -- See NCJ-216889)

NCJ Number
Roger Smith
Date Published
18 pages
This chapter examines the preoccupation with actuarialism, risk-based examples, and early intervention within contemporary youth justice policy and practice.
It is the very powerful contradiction between actuarial approaches and those based on other principles, such as diversion, rights, or restoration which suggest that serious problems lie in store for those involved in delivering youth justice, as well as the children and young people caught up in the process. Ultimately, actuarial principles and methods are incompatible with aspirations towards a youth justice system which is rooted in the complex dynamics and systemic inequalities which characterize many young people’s lives. The only encouragement to be taken from this discussion is that, at the level of practice, actuarial techniques are regularly being resisted in favor of interventions which are centered on the experiences, aspirations, and needs of young people. Recent developments in policy and practice suggest that there has been a significant shift in the way youth crime, specifically the public fears about threat and danger, is conceptualized, leading to an emphasis on a particular kind of approach, namely “actuarialism.” Actuarialism is defined as an approach to crime control and management which dispenses with concerns about the meaning or motives behind offending and replaces these with an emphasis on technologies of risk minimization and the elimination of potential threats to social order. Actuarialism achieves certain symbolic ideological ends by creating a sense of reliability and certainty, through the instruments and machinery generated for predicting, assessing, and intervening with youth whose behavior gives cause for concern. However, there are practical deficiencies of actuarial practice and it is important to recognize moral and political inadequacies. This chapter examines the preoccupation with actuarialism, risk-based paradigms, and early intervention within contemporary youth justice police and practice. References