At-Risk for a Cycle of Placement: An Examination of the Significance of Ideas and Practices Related to Risk in the Placement Process for Juvenile Delinquents

Deborah Plechner, University of Minnesota Duluth

The number of delinquent youth being ordered into residential placements has increased greatly over the past few decades and continues to rise. Neither the outcomes of this growing trend for youth, nor its meaning in light of the underlying contradictions of juvenile justice practices are yet clear. The growing use of overwhelmingly private placements has been aligned with the juvenile justice system's recurring swing between the goals of punishment and treatment. But it has also been theorized as reflective of a larger shift in penology toward practices aimed at identifying and managing potential risky individuals and groups.

The aim of this study is to identify the meaning and significance of risk-based practices as they occur during the placement process. This research will build on an earlier study of placement outcomes which employed a new conceptualization of placement as a process shaped by the constraints of organizational dynamics. Examining the meanings of risk and the concrete ways in which risk-based practices enter into the placement process is useful in its own right. But this study may also help to reveal the relationship between growing placement rates for delinquent youth and larger shifts in philosophies of punishment and justice.

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Updated 05/20/2006