Disrupting the Routes between Care and Custody: Learning from Girls and Women in the Care and Criminal Justice Systems

Whilst only 1% of the general population have been in care, recent estimates suggest that up to 50% of children in custody have. These figures suggest a systemic failing in the provision of more supportive services to those with care experiences, and a better understanding of this is long overdue. The Laming Review, ‘In Care, Out of Trouble’ (2016) highlighted the lack of research on females in care in the youth justice system, and recommended a particular focus on their needs. However, given the lack of evidence on this neglected topic, policy makers and practitioners may not know how best to go about this. In this sense, our knowledge gaps are clearly an obstacle to effective policy and practice.

This project will explore the experiences of females who have been in care as children and who are also involved with the youth/criminal justice system. A targeted literature review will examine messages from research and knowledge gaps. Semi-structured interviews with girls currently in care, and imprisoned women who have care experience, will be used to explore their experiences of the care and justice systems and their views on what needs to change. Additionally, interviews with professionals, including care workers and police, will explore their perspectives and recommendations for reform. Furthermore, documentary analysis will enable a focus on how the care system currently responds to girls’ challenging behaviour. Importantly, the project will also consider how quantitative data collection on this topic could be improved, as well as identifying future opportunities for data linkage.

This project will be led by the Principal Investigator Dr Claire Fitzpatrick, working with Co-Investigators Dr Jo Staines (University of Bristol) and Dr Julie Shaw (Liverpool John Moores University), with input from expert advisors Professor Brian Francis (Maths & Statistics – Lancaster University) and Dr Jude Towers (Liverpool John Moores University). This 27 month project is funded by the Nuffield Foundation and will commence in February 2019.

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