Source: (2007) The Howard Journal, vol. 6:401-416

A key theme underlying recent changes to youth justice in England and Wales has been responsibilising young offenders by holding them accountable for their offending. While this has led to a focus on offending behaviour and restorative justice programmes to address perceived deficits in young offenders’ cognitive skills, it has also been recognised that their ability to desist from crime is frequently constrained by acute levels of socio-economic disadvantage. With this concern in mind, policy makers have introduced several initiatives to combat the risks associated with social exclusion, and facilitate reintegration. Yet research suggests that these initiatives have failed to alleviate the problem. It will be argued that this is because New Labour has constituted reintegration as the personal moral responsibility of young offenders, with scant regard to structural barriers and broader social justice ideals. The article concludes by suggesting that a solution may lie in the propagation of a ‘transformative’ rights-based agenda. (author's abstract)