Source: (2005) Youth Justice. 5(3): 180-193.

The launch of the ‘Respect Task Force’, on 2 September 2005, signals the New Labour government’s ongoing electoral preoccupation with the behaviour of young people. Reflecting on how the ‘respect’ agenda fits into New Labour’s overall youth justice project, in England and Wales, this paper argues that the government’s willingness to define, legislate and sanction with regard to those responsibilities it deems essential to the membership rights of ‘law-abiding’ society is unlikely to engender positive outcomes. Rather it is contended that the continuing commitment to authoritarian penal populism within youth justice rhetoric and policy is likely to prove alienating, damaging and ultimately counterproductive.