Source: (2001) Youth Justice. 1(3): 27-35.This article explores the implications for youth justice in England and Wales of borrowing other states’ penal initiatives in the pursuit of a pragmatic ‘what works’ agenda in crime prevention and reducing re-offending. It is argued that whilst the policy transfer of elements of restorative justice from the likes of Australasia and Scotland has the potential to radically rethink current practice its implementation is partial and piecemeal. The dominant recurrent influence remains that of American inspired punitive justice. Meanwhile some important lessons in child protection, diversion and decarceration from Europe are ignored. The adoption of ‘what works’ is highly selective and in itself provides a dubious basis for reform. What superficially appears as a new open-mindedness to learn from academic evaluation and ‘best practice’ world-wide, masks the fundamentally political and ideological nature of contemporary youth justice policy.