Riots in U.K. Force a Renewed Look at Juvenile Justice System

The recent riots in Britain have forced policy makers to look anew at a juvenile justice system that has historically focused on rehabilitation and diversion. An AP story details growing public outrage and frustration of officials within the system to what they see as a soft approach to juvenile crime. The change in tone has been set by Prime Minister David Cameron, who as recently as 2006 was celebrating programs aimed at understating marginalized youth, including one dubbed “Hug a Hoodie.”

Today, however, after major riots in London, Birmingham and Manchester and other U.K cities, the prime minister threatens not only jail but a loss of government support, including housing subsidies for young people participating in the disturbances. Thousands have been arrested during and after the riots with about half of them, police say, under the age of 18.

Social Media, the Riots and a Different New York Approach

British papers are full of news stories and commentary about the role social media has played in the riots that rocked London and other major cities. Prime Minister David Cameron’s calls to shut down some sites have been met with a barrage of criticism, such as this op-ed in the Guardian. Others have attacked the government’s overall response, including its attack on social media outlets and the deployment of water cannons comparing the aggressive behavior to the Mubarak regime’s initial response to the Egyptian uprising. The Telegraph  has a stream of comments on its web site, some from former police officers, critical of the police for not being aggressive enough, including their hesitation in shutting down the Blackberry and other cellular networks. The Blackberry network was reportedly instrumental in maintaining anonymity for many protestors and organizing riots.