Dr Cox also looked at the consequences of confining BAME young people and found that as youth justice systems have grown smaller, the levels of BAME young people in the system have risen disproportionately, and the control experienced in the facility has begun to reflect broader institutionalised forms of racism.
She said: “Institutionalised racism was expressed both in a subtle way, through the expectations of staff for deference and respect, but also in more overt ways, through the use of animal metaphors to describe the young people, and the suggestion that the only way that they could be brought under control was through physical force and restraint.”
While inside the secure residential system, Dr Cox found that some staff and administrators did seek to implement practices that would support young people. These included the development of reading programmes and libraries, arts and athletic programmes, and a university degree-granting programme. They also included improved bridges to care on the outside, including guarantees of housing, university entrance, and health insurance.
Yet, Dr Cox found there was a greater focus by the authorities on expanding therapeutic programming, and even in beautifying the juvenile facilities. This made it difficult to get financial and material support for better educational and resettlement programming.
Dr Cox concluded: “Efforts at reform in the system must not neglect to see that even if facilities look and feel nicer, the development and care of young people is nearly impossible to achieve within secure confinement, as the obstacles are far too great to the realisation of their development.”
Trapped in a Vice: The Consequences of Confinement for Young People
is published on Tuesday 30 January, 2018 by Rutgers University Press.
Dr Cox’s research was funded by the Gates Cambridge Trust and the Overseas Research Studentship, in addition to the Open Society Foundation via their Soros Justice Advocacy.