This chapter explores attempts by the New Labour Government in England and Wales to institutionalize aspects of restorative justice (RJ) as a part of major youth justice reform efforts.
Focusing mainly on the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 and the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999, the first part of the chapter reviews the background to the recent youth justice reforms and outlines the central reform components. The author explains that the Labour Party, which came to power in 1997, attempted to steer a new path for youth justice within an increasingly punitive youth justice environment. The focus of the reform efforts was to intervene in risk and protective factors in child development to change the behavior of young people at an age when most begin offending. Overall, the reforms aimed to take the youth justice system away from “an exclusionary punitive justice and towards an inclusionary restorative justice.” A system of reprimands and final warnings replaced traditional cautions. The second part of the chapter specifically explores the implementation of referral orders and youth offender panels, which are at the heart of the youth justice reforms in England and Wales. This discussion focuses on the institutionalization of RJ practices within a punitive political environment and highlights the tensions between managerialism and RJ. Other main tensions involved with institutionalizing RJ within a punitive justice environment include the tensions between local justice versus centralized control and the involvement of lay persons, victims, and communities in the dispensing of justice, which is inherently at odds with the highly bureaucratized and professionalized traditional criminal justice system. In closing, the author notes that it still remains to be seen whether the institutionalization of RJ practices in England and Wales will usher in a new era of restorative justice or will merely be a passing phase in one of many reform movements. Notes, references
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