Presented By: Dr Hedi Viterbo, Queen Mary University of London
Speaker: Dr Hedi Viterbo
Title: Just for Kids? How the Youth Decarceration Discourse Legitimises Adult Incarceration
Dr Viterbo’s talk ‘Just for kids? How the Youth Decarceration Discourse Legitimises Adult Incarceration’ will be chaired by Dr Marguerite Schinkel of the University of Glasgow and the discussant will be Fiona Dyer – Director of the Children and Young People’s Centre for Justice based at the University of Strathclyde.
Various academics, human rights organisations, and state officials have called for the reduction or abolition of youth incarceration. At first glance, such calls may appear to be part of, and a service to, the broader anti-carceral movement. In this talk, Hedi Viterbo lays bare how they tend to do quite the opposite: persistently portraying the overwhelming majority of people in trouble with the law—namely, adults—as incorrigible, blameworthy, and, therefore, as deserving punishment and incarceration.
When it comes to most imprisoned people, then, the dominant youth decarceration discourse condones, and potentially even entrenches, carceral thinking, and it does so in the name of children’s rights. Bringing together critical prison studies and critical childhood studies, this talk sheds new and critical light on key aspects of the dominant youth decarceration rhetoric: its ill-considered reliance on the language of children’s rights, its problematic assumptions about both youth and adults, its ageist framing of the ills of criminal confinement, and its misjudgement of contexts—such as health risks in prison during the coronavirus pandemic—in which adults’ greater vulnerability is uncontested. Instead of the existing youth decarceration discourse, then, a bolder decarcerationist vision is needed, one that benefits imprisoned people across the age spectrum.
Dr Hedi Viterbo is Senior Lecturer in Law at Queen Mary University of London. Previously, he was Lecturer in Law at the University of Essex, a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at SOAS, a visiting scholar at Harvard Law School, and a visiting researcher at Columbia University. His research examines legal issues concerning childhood, state violence, and sexuality from an interdisciplinary and global perspective. His latest book is Problematizing Law, Rights, and Childhood in Israel/Palestine (Cambridge University Press, 2021).