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Surviving Risk: Juvenile Justice Workers' Perspectives on Managing Blood-borne Viruses and Other Health Risks

NCJ Number
Youth Studies Australia Volume: 22 Issue: 3 Dated: September 2003 Pages: 25-31
Mary O'Brien; Zoe Greenwood
Sheila Allison
Date Published
September 2003
7 pages
This study examined Australian juvenile justice workers’ experiences and perspectives of dealing with juvenile justice clients with particular focus on issues related to health risks including blood-borne viruses and drug use.
It is recognized that young people within the juvenile justice system suffer significantly higher morbidity and more social problems than their same-age peers. In Victoria, Australia research shows that the management of blood-borne viruses and other health risks in the juvenile justice system raises a number of issues including the continuity of care, the need to balance the imperatives of corrections and health, and the challenge of choosing and implementing appropriate interventions. This study investigated the perspectives of a broad cross-section of workers who had responsibility for the care and supervision of juvenile justice clients in Victoria. It focused on workers’ experiences and perspectives of managing juvenile justice clients with particular emphasis on the issues related to health risks including blood-borne viruses and drug use. In-depth, qualitative interviews were conducted with 86 workers in a variety of community and detention based roles. The participants were recruited from four Melbourne metropolitan areas and one rural Department of Human Services (DHS) region. From the data analysis, three themes were focused upon: continuity of care, balancing the imperatives of health and corrections, and implementing interventions. Continuity of care was a recurring issue raised by workers in all sectors. Currently juvenile justice clients have good access to education about safer using and safer sex through targeted peer education. Two key issues arose for workers in relation to education: (1) young people are taught how to use drugs more safely, but are not given the appropriate equipment to carry the practices out and (2) young people are being sent to detention because of drug-related offending and then being taught how to use more safely. It was seen that many of the health risks that juvenile justice clients face are not solely a result of their own behavior but arise out of systemic and institutional practices. Workers are a crucial source of information in understanding the juvenile justice system and the needs of its clients. They implement both formal policies and informal practices in dealing with young people, and they are in a unique position to comment on the strengths and weaknesses of the system. References