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Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence

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Thesis submitted to Technological University Dublin in part fulfilment of the requirements for the award of masters Degree (M.A.) in Criminology, September 2016.


Youth detention facilities like many other services funded by public money need to be able to demonstrate the difference it makes to the lives of the small cohort of young people who are detained. In a world which has become more security and safety conscious, evidencing the difference made to the lives of these ‘troubled youths’ is of particular interest to society today. This study aimed to explore the factors that support improved pro social outcomes for young people detained. As key agents of change having access to a formative time in young people’s lives while in detention, social care practitioners were purposefully chosen as the research sample to inform this research.

A qualitative approach using semi structured interviews was used. The factors that support pro social outcomes were noted as; the quality of the relationship between the young person and staff, the organisational support of staff and interagency cooperation and planning for reintegration of a young person back into the community. The interview data was analysed and coded. The findings suggested that the relational properties of the total institution has a cumulative and prevailing effect on pro-social outcomes for young people in detention. Relationships between the care staff and young people can mirror the relational experience between care staff and management. This combined with current experiences of change and reform is experienced has the potential to destabilise the balance between care and control, resulting in a climate that is less conducive to supporting improved pro social outcomes for young people detained. This research is timely in that Irelands National Detention Facility is undergoing historical and unprecedented change. As part of this change a new and revised evidence informed and hopeful ‘way forward’ is being developed to provide the best possible standard of care for young people in the context of the governments overarching National framework ‘Better Outcomes Brighter futures’. This facility will be referred to as Oberstown for the remainder of the thesis. This study addresses the gap in research in identifying the factors that support improved pro social outcomes for young people detained. It is envisaged that the research will add to the debate which needs to be held on the future of children’s services generally in Ireland and the type of interventions used to divert young people away from crime.



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