Reshaping Juvenile Justice examines reforms in New South Wales under the Young Offenders Act 1997. The Act institutionalises a fresh approach to juvenile justice – one that regulates police discretion at the gate-keeping level, emphasises diversion as a principle, introduces restorative conferencing as an intermediate intervention, and relegates the use of courts to the last resort.
The enactment of the Young Offenders Act followed years of experimentation with various models of police cautioning and diversion. The Act is unique in its focus on community, victim and family participation, in the limits it places on the exercise of police discretion, and in the provisions made for children’s access to legal advice. The reform is also exceptional in that it was implemented through an unusual mixture of cross-government and community co-operation. An independent agency, the Youth Justice Conferencing Directorate, was established to manage and administer youth justice conferences. Conference convenors are recruited from individuals who live and work in the local communities. As an innovative social experiment, policymakers and researchers will watch the impact of the Act both nationally and internationally.
Reshaping Juvenile Justice brings together the most up-to-date research evidence and analysis of the Young Offenders Act. It details the history of the Act’s development and implementation. It describes the working of the Act and evaluates its effectiveness and impact on young offenders, victims, and juvenile crime. In discussing the strengths and weaknesses of the Act and in identifying the critical success factors and barriers to implementation, the monograph lays the groundwork for future debates on juvenile justice in Australia.