Whose Problem?

Jeffrey A. Butts (2007). Whose Problem? In Debating Youth Justice: From Punishment to Problem Solving. London, England: Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, King’s College London.

The emergence of problem-solving justice is significant because it returns the justice system to its foundational principles and a focus on community safety rather than law and order.

Rob Allen’s critique of youth justice and his suggestions for reform are just as relevant on this side of the Atlantic. In the United States too, the most innovative approaches to youth justice rely on a problem-solving framework. Rather than simply responding punitively to the criminal behavior of youth, we try to resolve the problems that generate criminal behavior – but whose problems? We Americans are biased in how we identify problems and choose solutions. We like to explain our social problems in a way that conforms to a predetermined set of affordable solutions. Inevitably, these solutions are based on the premise that it is cheaper to manage the individual reactions to an adverse environment than it is to mend the environment.