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Risk, responsibilities and rights: reassessing the ‘economic causes of crime’ thesis in a recession

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  • Economics
  • Political Science


This paper explores competing accounts of an apparent inversion of the previously-prevailing relationship between young people's unemployment and the incidence of youth offending at a time of economic recession. It begins by highlighting the faltering association between unemployment and offending, and considers the paradoxical implications for risk-based methodologies in youth justice practice. The paper then assesses explanations for the changing relationship that suggest that youth justice policies have successfully broken the unemployment-offending link; and alternatively that delayed effects of recession have yet to materialise, by reference to the work of four Inter-governmental organisations and to youth protests beyond the UK. In place of ever more intensive risk analyses, the paper then focusses on the adverse effects of unemployment on social cohesion, and proposes a rights-based approach to youth justice that recognises the growing disjuncture between the rights afforded to young people and the responsibilities expected of them.

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