Research conducted by the University of Bedfordshire estimates that children in the care system are seven times more likely to be subject to imprisonment during childhood than those who are not in care, and learn to adopt a ‘survivor mentality’.
Researchers at the University’s Vauxhall Centre for the Study of Crime have investigated how children in care are disproportionately represented in the youth justice system, and in child prisons in particular. This two year research project was led by Dr Tim Bateman, a specialist in youth justice and youth crime, and funded by the Nuffield Foundation – an independent charitable trust with a mission to advance social wellbeing.
The ‘Pathways of Incarcerated Children in Care’ project studied a mixed group of children sentenced to custody from South and West Yorkshire, half of whom were in the care system. The research team explored their journeys into, through and out of custody, and found that the children’s behaviours often could be understood as strategies that disadvantaged and vulnerable children develop in order to survive hostile environments.
While all those sentenced to custody shared characteristics (including extremely troubled backgrounds and problems at home and school), there were differences between children in care and those who were not. The additional challenges encountered by these children, especially those placed in care a long way from their home community, heightened the risk that they would become entangled in the youth justice system and – when sentenced to custody – would be more likely to have negative experiences within the custodial estate and return to an unsettled lifestyle upon release.
Summarising their findings, Dr Tim Bateman, Co-Director of the Vauxhall Centre for the Study of Crime, said:
Based at the University of Bedfordshire’s Institute of Applied Social Research (IASR), the Vauxhall Centre for the Study of Crime specialises in effective research into youth crime, the youth justice system, gangs and youth violence and the analysis of policy and practice within criminology and other fields.
Information about postgraduate opportunities with IASR can be found here: www.voltasgec.com/iasr/pd?
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