• Child imprisonment: exploring injustice by geography

      Bateman, Tim; University of Bedfordshire (HM Prison Service, 2011)
      The risk that a child might be confined to the secure estate depends to a large extent on the post code of the court in which he or she is sentenced. At the level of individual youth offending team (YOT) area, the difference is 1 in 5 cases leading to a court disposal in Merthyr Tydfil to 1 in 150 in Dorset. This variation cannot be explained by local patterns of youth crime, but is indicative of a form of injustice. The article demonstrates that sentence decision-making at the local level is sensitive to a range of factors which distinguish the areas with a high use of detention from those which deprive few children of their liberty. These factors are: the extent of pre-court diversion; the distribution of sentencing options below the level of custody; and the manner in which youth justice practitioners respond to children who come to the attentions of YOTs. The article concludes that areas where the level of child imprisonment remains relatively low retain elements from an earlier era of youth justice committed to decriminalisation, diversion and decarceration. In contrast, localities with higher rates of incarceration show more features associated with the punitive turn of the early 1990s.