Young people with complex needs in the youth justice system

Eileen Baldry1, Sophie Russell2*

1 Chief Investigator, Comparative Youth Penality Project, University of New South Wales
2 Research Associate, Comparative Youth Penality Project, University of New South Wales

*corresponding author:

Research being conducted in Australian and England and Wales in the United Kingdom as part of the Comparative Youth Penality Project confirms that juvenile justice institutions are filled with some of the most vulnerable young people in our societies. These young people generally have low educational attainment, backgrounds of entrenched disadvantage, housing instability and homelessness, drug and alcohol addiction, mental and cognitive disability, experiences of trauma and abuse, and placements in out-of-home-care. The cumulative impact of these factors in individuals’ lives result in what have been termed complex support needs. This article uses a mixed methodology approach comprising a detailed literature review, secondary analysis of available data, and qualitative analysis of interviews conducted for the Comparative Youth Penality Project to examine, describe and theorise about the presence of young people with complex support needs in youth justice. Using critical disability and critical criminology theoretical orientations, our analyses show striking similarities across Australia, England and Wales in regard to the aetiology of these complex support needs and the attitude towards and management of children and young people with disability.


Sophie Russell (BSLS, MCrim) is the Research Associate on the ARC Comparative Youth Penality Project at the University of New South Wales. Prior to this position, Sophie worked as Research Officer at the Sydney Institute of Criminology at the University of Sydney. Sophie’s research focuses on social justice matters including mental health and cognitive disability and complex support needs in the criminal justice system. Sophie is involved in a voluntary capacity with community sector agencies including as a Director on the Board of Glebe House, a residential therapeutic community.


The society is devoted to promoting criminological study, research and practice in the region and bringing together persons engaged in all aspects of the field. The membership of the society reflects the diversity of persons involved in the field, including practitioners, academics, policy makers and students.

Conference Managers

Please contact the team at Conference Design with any questions regarding the conference.
© 2018 Conference Design Pty Ltd