In the last decades, socio-political changes across the realms of social life have resulted in a shift from controlling existing dangers to the pursuit to predict and prevent potential risks. In criminology, developmental understandings of youth crime that identified key individual, familial, and social risk factors for delinquency have become prominent as a consequence. Informed by developmental criminology, the ‘risk factor prevention paradigm’ (RFPP) has become influential within UK’s youth justice practice. Nowadays, the RFPP remains significant and is most evidently incorporated in standardised risk assessment and planning frameworks that often guide interventions for young people in trouble with the law.
Within criminological theory, risk assessment strategies have been criticised for the questionable validity of claims made based on predicting risk and for promoting the negative views of young people ‘at risk’ of offending (McAra and McVie 2012). However, practitioners’ understandings of risk and needs, as well as how they use risk assessment tools to inform intervention planning remain unexamined.
My postdoctoral project aims to fill these gaps by analysing a sample of risk assessment forms and drawing on the accounts of youth justice professionals to analyse their perceptions of risk assessment. I aim to use the results of this pilot study to inform my future research on the implications of risk assessment within youth justice.