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Governing risk and drug use in juvenile justice settings.

There is a growing literature that examines regimes of control characteristic of neo-liberal societies (Rose, 2000). Recently Bunton (2001) usefully applied this approach in examining drug policy in the UK and other parts of Europe. This literature examines a number of sites of social regulation, including crime (Rose, 2000; O'Malley, 1999), health (Petersen, 1997; Lupton, 1995), and other social problems (Dean & Hindess, 1998).

Adapting Foucault's notion of "governmentality," this literature examines the rationalities and techniques used in the shaping of both individuals and populations. There are several important features characteristic of this form of governance. The first is that the state is no longer seen as the primary or sole regulator of the actions of individuals or populations. Thus the regulation of conduct occurs in a range of "spaces" or locations, including economies, media, justice systems, communities, schools and families (Rose, 2000; Lupton, 1999). This perspective recognizes that the mode of governing individuals and populations occurs through both "techniques of domination" (societal regulation) and "techniques of self" (self-subjectification) (Petersen, 1997:203). Techniques of self refers to the process by which individuals strive to fashion themselves and in doing so find their own desires, pleasures and interests aligned with broader "political, social and institutional goals" (Rose, 1990:257). In this way the regulation of individuals occurs not only by externally imposed controls, but centrally through the very shaping of people's own subjectivities. Fundamental to this strategy of self-regulation is a reliance on professionals and experts who generate systems of knowledge that individuals utilize in guiding and monitoring their own conduct (Rose, 1992).

In the area of health, Osborne (1997) has suggested that this style of social regulation means that health becomes no longer a "right of citizenship" but indeed a "a duty of citizenship" (Osborne, 1997:180). Thus the self becomes an "enterprise" (Gordon, 1991) that one invests in for personal benefit and as a fulfillment of social obligations (Crawford, 1994). The idea of personal responsibility for risk and ill health, however, "is presented as a practice of freedom" (Lupron, 1999:100) resulting from choice and not from the imposition of an external or centralized organization such as the state.

The management of risk becomes a primary strategy utilized across many areas of social regulation in neo-liberal societies. Here individuals, as well as collectivities and institutions, are responsible for activities aimed at preventing risk. This is done through constant self-monitoring, self-assessment, and endeavors that attempt to reduce exposure to risk. The idea of risk incorporates not just adverse consequences, but the potential for such consequences. This leads to an ever-increasing array of factors that enter into the process of risk assessment. The proliferation of risks increases the importance of experts or professionals whose knowledges are necessary to make risk calculable. But, at the same time, the notion of risk distances "experts from direct intervention into personal lives, while employing the agency of subjects in their own self-regulation" (Petersen, 1997:203).

The language of risk--risk groups, risk behaviors and risk factors--underpins discussion of crime prevention, child and adolescent development, and substance abuse. Increasingly the category of "young people" is being seen as an intense site of governance (Bessant et al., 2000). It is not surprising, then, that juvenile justice systems are a site where discourses of crime and health coalesce in a manner that exemplifies the form of governance characterized by neo-liberal societies.

The perspective of governmentality enables us to examine the problematization of drug-use risks for juvenile justice (JJ) clients by examining the rationalities or arguments that underpin the approach adopted and the complex technologies through which the system seeks to mediate those risks.


This paper is based on a qualitative study of workers who have responsibility for the care and supervision of JJ clients in Victoria, and represents preliminary analysis of the first 70 interviews with workers. The paper describes the discourses of drug-use risk in detention centers and in community settings as narrated by workers in the juvenile justice system (JJS).

The site--the Victoria juvenile justice system

The JJS in the state of Victoria, Australia, is responsible for the care and supervision of young people convicted of criminal offenses. This includes young people placed on custodial-based orders in detention centers and those supervised on community-based orders through non-residential juvenile justice units (JJUs) in their area of residence. (1) Detention centers and JJUs are all State government-controlled institutions staffed by government Department of Human Services (DHS) employees. In addition to the "operational staff" at detention centers, each of the three detention centers has a separate "health team." While at one detention center these staff are also government employees, the health services offered in the other two detention centers are provided by an outside contractor from a non-government organization (NGO). The DHS also purchases the services of a range of NGOs to provide specialist health and welfare support for young people on custodial- and community-supervised orders. These services may be in the form of supported or independent accommodation services, drug and alcohol counseling, detoxification, or post-release support.


The sampling framework for this study was designed to access a cross-section of workers responsible for the care and supervision of JJ clients. This included both operational staff and health team staff at detention centers, DHS staff who supervise young people through community-based JJUs, and workers at a variety of NGOs contracted by DHS to work with clients. JJU staff and NGO workers were drawn from each of the 4 metropolitan health regions and one rural region.


Recruitment from detention centers, JJUs, NGOs and JJ-specific health services began after receiving approval from the DHS. Managers of each institution or agency separately consented to the recruitment of staff for interview. Researchers worked from staff lists in order to approach workers for interviews. Within each organization, workers with a variety of different points of contact with JJ clients were interviewed. The DHS provided contact details of all JJUs and detention centers, and DHS staff (both detention and community based) were asked at interview to nominate NGOs they dealt with in order to provide a separate list of NGO agencies to approach.


Semistructured interviews were guided by a theme list that was developed in order to explore experiences of working with JJ clients, working within the JJS, and issues to do with health and risk for JJ clients. The interviews, conducted by two researchers, averaged approximately 1.5 hours and were in all but one case tape recorded. Five interviews involving two or three people occurred. Most interviews were conducted at the place of employment, although several were done at locations chosen by the worker. Interviews were fully transcribed, and the transcripts were then verified by a research assistant. When reproducing segments of interview transcripts, potentially identifying information has been removed or obscured. Information inserted for clarity appears between square brackets. When parts of the segment have been removed for brevity, the notation (...) appears in the text. When both interviewer's and workers' statements are reproduced, R: indicates the respondent (worker) and I: indicates the interviewer. Interviewee and transcript page number appear after each segment of transcript reproduced.


Analysis for this paper was structured by a concern for how the governance of risk in the juvenile justice system is accomplished in the everyday practices of workers within the system. In particular, analysis focused on the forms of knowledge that made these risks "thinkable," the techniques that the workers and the system used to establish or "discover" these risks, and the social technologies that workers and the system deployed in order to govern those same drug-use risks. This framework draws its influence from the literature outlined in the introduction to this paper and in particular from the work of Dean (1999) and Rose (2000). The data were subjected to thematic coding by two researchers where themes were inductively derived from the data during several iterations of coding. Emergent themes were identified through ongoing analysis of transcripts during the course of the study. This process produced codes of a less descriptive and more analytical nature. These text "themes" were then collated across subsets of the key stakeholder groups identified in the sample. Data management was coordinated with the software package N-VIVO.


The results are structured into three sections. The first, "Making risks, making clients," concerns workers' perceptions and definitions of their drug-using clients and the notions of risk they routinely employ. The second section, "Making risk knowable--dilemmas for workers," focuses more on the techniques used to document and codify risk in different parts of the system. The last section, "Governing risks, governing clients," focuses on how workers use a range of approaches in order to govern clients.

Drug-use risk is seen as not just about the practices of workers or the properties of clients; it is produced in a dynamic system that structures and is structured by relationships of power/knowledge between and among clients, workers and institutions.

The following themes examine how risk is conceptualized, produced and institutionalized in the JJS. Importantly they highlight that risk resides not just in bodies of young JJ clients but also in the social and cultural context of the system that surrounds them.

Making risks, making clients

This section concerns workers' perceptions and definitions of their drug-using clients and notions of risk. This section elaborates the forms of knowledge and the particular problematizations that the JJS produces. It establishes how risks become "thinkable." It describes how workers' perceptions of clients are produced in practices where they are defining risk, in the adoption of different sources of evidence, and in the very way they conceptualize the subject of intervention.

Defining risk and safety

Workers are quite aware of the multiplicity and complexity of risks they manage in this environment. Multiple definitions of risk can produce confusing and contradictory practices. The multiplicity can, however, create opportunities for productive innovations.

The JJS in Victoria has a leave program that allows young people serving custodial sentences to gradually reintegrate into the community with tapering levels of support. In comparison with other Australian states, where no leave programs exist, this is a progressive approach to managing young people's transition from detention to the community. However, the leave program also presents a range of dilemmas. One of these cited in this research concerned the decision to return young people to custody if they were found to be using drugs while on temporary leave in the community. The imperative for the system to return the young person to a more controlled environment (detention) is to limit risk. This risk is not just the risk to the young person (fatal overdose, blood-borne virus transmission), it is also the very real risk to the system itself of media and judicial scrutiny into adverse consequences.

In an effort to estimate levels of risk, clients are assessed and categorized. "High risk" clients are placed on the "high-risk register." The register is a crucial tool for defining risk in individual rather than systemic terms. In the following segment of transcript, a worker discusses the DHS "risk register."

I: When you say "exceptionally high risk," what does that mean in this environment?

R: Well, the department has a register, where you're acute high risk, or you're normal high risk, or you're high maintenance ... acute high risk is basically, you know, you're gonna die, or it's gonna hit the media, which is the department's number one problem all the time.

I: Which one?

R: Um, that you're gonna hit the media, not that you're gonna die, only if you're gonna die and hit the media, and that's the number one problem, so that's what gets you into the acute high risk. (MOBJJ14:14)

Workers make judgments not just about a young person's risk, but also the risk that they, as individual workers, and the broader system are prepared to endure. The high-risk register is a departmental response that tries to ensure that young people at risk receive an increased level of support. It is also a significant example of the efforts that go into calibrating risk in this type of environment. One of the consequences of the problematization inherent in a practice like the risk register is that it situates risk within clients. The collapsing of institutional or system risks such as adverse media attention onto the client who becomes "acute high risk" has implications for workers' practices. It may lead to a tendency to focus risk interventions on the individual bodies of clients, at the expense of acknowledging broader systemic contributions to the production of risk. Because of the nature of risk, attempts to control it through practices such as the register will never adequately protect clients or the system from the risks it is set up to mollify. The failure of this type of risk classification is not only unlikely to challenge its usefulness, it is actually likely to generate greater efforts to refine or improve such a classification system (see Rose, 2000, p. 333). Other work (Crawford, 1994; Hassin, 1994) has examined the consequences of the internalization of discourses of risk for the social identity of injecting drug users. What lies unexamined in this analysis, and remains beyond the scope of this paper, are the consequences of being on the high-risk register for the self-identity of young clients.

Evidence of drug use

At any one time a varied mix of government and non-government agencies are involved in the case management of clients. This structure increases the number of assessments and evidence gathering to which each young person is subject. This is particularly the case in specialist areas such as drug and alcohol (D&A) treatment. The gathering of evidence about drug use through assessments and observations is central in determining how case management should proceed. Assessment determines client suitability for a range of drug treatment services, from methadone to detoxification to outreach case-management models. It also makes certain types of drug-using cultures more or less possible in different parts of the system. Inconsistent and sometimes incongruent sources of evidence of drug use ensure that drug use as risk is often ill defined. In this next interview segment, a community-based JJ worker talks about a young person being assessed for drug and alcohol treatment by a range of sub-specialist treatment agencies (detoxification and outreach).

Currently there is a huge debate raging about the number of assessments a young person has to go through, (...). So the young person could potentially [be] going through four assessments [for his or her drug and alcohol issues]. And, the other side of that is that there seems to be little involvement, we [the generalist case manager] have the client base, but there is very little negotiation [with us] about which is the more appropriate service for that young person, so they're not actually using our knowledge-based decision making. (MOBJJ: 12)

There are also important distinctions made in this system between different types of evidence. Some evidence is clearly given more weight than others. This of course is linked to the varied forms of expertise within the system. For this supervisor, the knowledge base her case managers have accrued through long-term contact with clients is subordinated to specialist "assessments" conducted for D&A agency referrals. These two different types of evidence reflect some important features of the way knowledge and power are linked in the system. They also reflect some unresolved tensions that can arise as a consequence of changes in the types of expertise and specialist knowledges that are valued within the system.

In evaluating client suitability for D&A interventions, there is currently no standard assessment procedure for drug-use risk. Health workers at each of the three detention centers have their own procedures and approaches. Generalist and specialist agencies in the community similarly develop assessments that fit within the professional and philosophical approach of their agencies. Evidence gathering in the JJS, around drug use and other risks, takes varied forms. Some is experientially based (the "knowledge-based decision making" referred to above), some is codified and quantified through clinical instruments. There is currently no way to weigh the relative relevance or cogency of evidence gathered from different sources. The proliferation of different forms and means of evidence gathering may indeed offer more responsive, tailored or flexible outcomes for young people, but there are other consequences.

One of the consequences, alluded to by the worker quoted above, is multiple assessments of clients for the same issues by different agencies. This is magnified when D&A issues are likely to be but one of many specialist areas in which young people are assessed. Some workers reported that detained clients who objected to another assessment had refused permission for their files to be released to external brokerage for post-release D&A placement. In these instances the clients' reported objections were that the assessment or evidence gathering would be done outside of the existing relationship they had with their worker. Ultimately the importance of evidence gathered through assessment or knowledge-based decision making lies in its relationship to decision-making power. The nature of knowledge generated through evidence structures the power that is utilized, which in this environment leads to the types of options presented to young people to reduce their drug-related risk. If, as feared by the supervisor above, undergoing multiple assessments exposes a client to increased risk, it does so in a way that the risk or adverse consequence would rarely be attributed to the system of assessment. Rather it would be seen as a failure of the individual client to pursue his or her own therapeutic goals.

Examinations of how agencies or workers use evidence to manage risk, and of how evidence is coordinated and evaluated across different parts of the sector, reveals a number of different modes of power operating. I return to this issue in the final section of the results under the theme of power.

Conceptualization of the subject

How the client of the JJS is configured fundamentally shapes the expectations of selfhood and ultimately risk for young people concerned.

The drug-using client in the JJS is in a sense created by practices built around risk management. The very notion of the JJS is predicated upon the existence of risky subjects. There is a range of often contradictory subject positions created for drug-using clients in the JJS. One of the central tools in the JJS is the development of a client service plan (CSP) for every client who is supervised in either detention or the community. The CSP is developed by DHS staff in consultation with the young person and family or significant others. Implicit in this is the expectation that the young person (and family) has a central role in addressing the issues that have led to the offending. Similarly, for those working with JJ clients with substance-use problems, clients' participation in their own drug treatment plan is an attempt to get clients to take responsibility for their actions as the first stage in changing them. In effect, the CSP is a tool for clients to engage in self-work, drawing on the expertise of the professionals and the broader participation of others such as family members. In the following excerpt, a D&A worker talks about his relationship with clients.

... [we] meet them, and talk to them and, and say "Look, you know, we're not about this [the parole order that prescribed the young person presenting to the worker], you know, we're about you addressing your substance issues, but not in a coercive, sort of, involuntary way." But you know, it's that old attitude about taking the horse to water and making them drink, you know, it's gotta come from within, it's gotta come from within their, you know, (...). I mean, ninety-nine percent of our clients are pre-contemplators, (2) and to get them to the complicated stage of addressing their drug use is, as I see it, a major part of our work. I think if you can get them to contemplate, and then into actual treatment and acceptance or whatever, then you've come a long way. (MOBJJ2:14)

In discussing involuntary JJ clients, this worker differentiates between what he sees as the more coercive role exemplified by the parole order and his own role in facilitating clients to begin to address their drug use. From the perspective of governmentality, this worker acknowledges two of the major ways in which the subjectivity of JJ clients is inscribed through very different expressions of power. One is the more obvious form of monitoring and surveillance exercised through the parole order. The second is the way this worker plays a mediating role between broader social goals (to change one's drug use) and the individual, through the worker's status as an drug and alcohol expert. In this second expression of power, the worker as expert fashions the conduct of clients "... not through compulsion but through the power of truth, the potency of rationality ..." (Miller & Rose, 1993:93).

However, drug use, often framed as "addiction," and even interventions like methadone are often discussed by staff as impairing young people's capacities to engage in the practices of self or self care that are expected of them in a CSP. Thus drug use and even the choice to go on methadone are often framed as a negation of the rational actor who can engage in practices of self. Some staff (operational, health, and community-based NGO workers) see the use of methadone itself as a continuation of "addiction." Staff who, conversely, are supportive of methadone see it as a way for young people to gain stability so that they are able to engage in addressing problematic aspects of their lives.

For young people this creates a drug-using environment where continued use, or participation in a methadone program, is conceptualized and discussed by different staff in very contradictory ways. Here a health worker is critical of the negative view held by some operational staff toward methadone.

R: ... staff are saying, "Oh, this bloody methadone, get off it, you're addicted," and they're telling the kids this stuff too, and it's really working against what we're trying to do to support a young person.

I: Where does that resistance to methadone come from, do you think, for the unit-based staff?

R: Um, I think a little bit is flow-on from longer-term, what we call the older-type staff, um, having very little knowledge about what we call harm minimization, and when you do talk to them about harm minimization, they've very much got a zero-tolerance type of, um, approach to intervention with clients and "Hey, that used to work in the old days, why can't it work now?" (MOBJJ25:11-12)

In a different framing of the role of methadone, another health worker suggests that methadone itself precludes the use of a number of interventions:

R: I'd just like to see some of the kids held back a bit [from methadone], for a while. It would give me a window of opportunity too, you know, 'cause when they're not on opiates a lot of stuff's moving, energy and the fears and their distress and all that kind of thing, you know, and like, they don't like that, they think, they feel like that's abuse, but I don't. For me that's like great, they're thinking, there's something going--there's a process going on here, there's, some feelings are coming up and ...

I: You see it as an opportunity?

R: Yeah, an opportunity, "let's talk," not to say that I think I'm gonna change these people's lives, but, and certainly they'll go back to using drugs, like ninety-five percent of the time, I know that, but it's still, when they're on opiates and they're nodding off all day, it's like, well, you know, (...) there's not any intervention worth pursuing, really, at that stage ... (MOB J J24:14)

This worker clearly conceptualizes the JJ client as having the capacity to engage in self-work within their therapeutic relationship characterized by "talk." He worries, however, that methadone may for some clients obscure this capacity to engage in self-inscription. The type of subject conjured by this view of the potentially self-inscribing client is quite different from the conceptualization of clients evident in other interviews. Drug use in the JJS therefore is underpinned by varied and often contradictory conceptualizations of the young clients. Through these subject positions created in the practices, language and concepts of the JJS, bodies are inscribed either with hope and opportunity or as in need of therapy or punishment. The discourses producing these subject positions are many and varied, ranging from addiction discourses to neo-liberal discourses of the free-willed entrepreneurial subjects. The variability in subject positions may reveal a system avoiding an onerous totalizing discourse or a system where we see, as Valverde might describe it, a "piling up" of different rationalities (Valverde, 1998).

If we take seriously that discourse produces bodies, we must look at the complexity of subject positions created for JJ clients through these discursive practices and reflect on the drug-using culture that they produce.

Making risk knowable--dilemmas for workers

This second section focuses more on the context and the dilemmas that arise for workers who are positioned in different ways within the system. This section establishes some of the techniques that workers and the system use to establish or "discover" these risks. It describes how risk is created and becomes knowable for workers. It describes the influence and dilemmas that both institutional location and expertise play in the practices that govern young clients.

Institutional location--trust and coercion

The institutional location of workers strongly influences what expertise workers use in assessing drug-use risks. Institutional location is a combination of both professional boundaries and statutory responsibilities. JJ workers who carry statutory responsibility for young people have less flexibility in terms of allowing a young person who they know to be using drugs to remain in the community on parole or leave than do workers attached to NGOs working in an outreach capacity. Here such a worker talks of the importance of not having statutory responsibility in being able to maintain his outreach role with young drug-using clients.

I mean we would really try and not retain case-manager responsibility in that case, and I mean we would say Well look, we're just doing a small part of this person's overall package, and people with the social control and statutory authority, they're the ones that should be responsible for them, (...) we aren't in the business of doing that sort of dirty work for the department, I mean, that's not our, not our function, you know. Our function is to engage with hard-to-engage kids, and you can't do that if at the same [time] you're saying "Well, thanks very much for that phone number, I'll just pass it on to your parole officer, they are about to breach you." (MOBJJ2:9-10)

If the worker made a judgment that the young person was placing himself or the community "at risk," then the worker might disclose the whereabouts of a young person to his parole officer against his wishes. Drug use per se would not usually constitute such risk. Here the primary objective by the worker is to "engage" and develop trust with the young person. In some circumstances to actively cooperate with the representative of the department (DHS) that has statutory responsibility for supervising the young person may compromise trust and undermine the effort to "engage" the client.

A worker with statutory responsibility for a young person is more compelled to "breach" a client (return him or her to court) or return a client to a detention center than is a worker without statutory responsibilities. However, these workers' roles are also built on a relationship-based case-management model. The following two examples are from JJ workers who do have case management and statutory responsibility for young people. The first, who supervises young people in the community, states that drug use per se would be unlikely to see a young person breached. The second, a detention-based worker, states that although it may not be the best thing from a health perspective, JJ protocols require that a young person who uses drugs while on temporary leave from detention must be returned to detention.

Community-based JJ worker:

R: Breaching is supposed to be about re-offending.

I: And using isn't defined as that?

R: No, not really, no, it's not. I mean this is where it gets a little bit gray. But I mean if we, if we actually breached every young person that we knew used, the entire community would be sitting in an institution [detention], and at the end of the day, their drug and alcohol [D&A] issues can't be managed by just a consequence, they actually have to be managed by engaging the young person in strategies to manage their D&A, [whether] that's by safe using, um, or by abstinence. So it's a difficult position to find yourself in, but most often we will attempt to engage them some other way, to manage the drug and alcohol taking, as opposed to locking them down.... (MOBJJ3:7)

Detention center-based JJ worker:

... as a juvenile justice worker, your decision's easier, you throw them in the car, and you bring them back here, where you can control his living environment. For a health issue, or for the best result for that kid, that's not going to be, that may not be, the best outcome, because you're just taking him away from his environment, like where he needs to sort through his issues, so they're the dilemmas we face. We're controlled by juvenile justice guidelines, so our decisions are made by those protocols, and not always for the best outcomes for the kids, individually. (MOBJJ15:11)

These examples highlight how the diversity of institutional locations and contexts involved in the management of young people (with different statutory relationships to the client) can result in very different responses to the risks posed by drug use. Thus the thresholds that define what is risky for clients are inherently linked to the specific contexts in which workers are acting. They also highlight that all relationships with JJ clients and workers are negotiated across a continuum of trust and coerciveness. Health and welfare workers were at pains to locate themselves to us as researchers and to their clients as distinct from the coercive end of the continuum of worker-client relationships. However, both health and welfare workers and supervisory staff engaged in practices at all points along this continuum. Workers gave many examples in relation to drug-use issues where they and their young clients found this relationship continuum difficult to negotiate.


What constituted good care and supervision, or the failure to provide it (a form of risk), was heavily influenced by the expertise invoked by the worker. At different times, depending on the assessment of JJ client needs, certain types of expertise and modes of authority had precedence over others. This dynamism depends not just on variation within and across different clients, but in accordance with shifts in approaches to working with young people in general. The sector of workers dealing with JJ clients has become increasingly professionalized and specialized in recent years. In the JJS there is no single, preeminent expert status. The JJS involves a wide range of workers who bring a diversity of different knowledges and expertise in working with clients. The pool of generalist youth workers who have traditionally managed JJ clients now do so with increasing input from specialists in psychology, D&A counseling, nursing, pharmacotherapies and adolescent health. In the JJS, while one generalist worker takes case-management responsibility for a client at any given point of time, case service plans (CSPs) increasingly draw on the expertise of multiple specialists. This worker articulates one example of this:

... and there's different agendas, (...) you've got different disciplines and different interests, like TAFE [Technical And Further Education] probably think "well, the best thing for this kid is that he needs English lessons," (...) health workers probably think "he needs to go into a rehab [rehabilitation] program when he gets out, to deal with drug issues," VSP [vocational support program] staff might think that "well, he needs a job..." (MOBJJ18:5)

In this environment, case management becomes not just a juggling of the different perceived needs of young people, but a contest about who has the authority to define those needs at a given point within the system. As a consequence, which types of "expertise" are valued varies enormously from one part of the system to another. Variations in the type of expertise brought to a CSP can have unexpected consequences for drug-using clients. For example, as noted earlier, the concept of appropriate assessment for drug treatment is highly variable. Most important, if drug-use assessments are constitutive of risk assessments, a lack of uniformity guarantees a lack of consensus around what constitutes risk. Variable expertise results in variable knowledge and perhaps in a ubiquitous risk, ill-defined and yet all-pervading.

In the following excerpt, a community-based JJ worker talks about the difficulties of maintaining communication about young people who are at high risk, even for those who work within the same settings. Earlier she discussed different expectations about how to write case notes, depending on whether staff were health workers (from para-medical backgrounds such as psychology or social work) or JJ operational staff, whose training was more likely to be as residential carers.

... when you've got within the [detention] institution, two different systems, a health system and a worker system that don't communicate and see client confidentiality as a big issue between them. it's almost impossible then to actually get a continuity of care happening, regardless of, of whether or not you professionalize them. (MOBJJ3:19)

The contestation of what "problem" is to be addressed with JJ clients depends substantially on worker expertise and the appraisal of which issues need to be addressed. Differences arise in terms of specific versus holistic approaches and notions of temporality in relation to immediate risks versus longer-term risks. Multiple sources of expertise, and different approaches to assessments and evidence gathering, can jeopardize attempts to establish continuity of care for young people-even when guided by technologies meant to unify approaches such as the CSP.

Governing risks, governing clients

This last section focuses on how the dilemmas of workers in different parts of the system affect the types of engagement workers have with clients. This section details the social technologies that workers and the system deployed in order to govern those same drug-use risks. It describes how the engagement of workers in particular relations of power are inherently related to the types of client and risks that the system deals with.

Relations of power

How power is conceptualized and deployed within client-worker relationships in the JJS is central to the management of drug use in the system. This paper has touched on examples where drug use is dealt with through strategies of overt control and containment, as well as strategies that seek to enroll young people themselves in disciplining their own subjectivities. This theme examines the complex mixing of these different modes of power by workers. For workers employed to deal directly with substance-use issues for custodial or community-based clients, the terms of the client-worker relationship within an involuntary and coercive system are problematic. Here a community-based NGO worker discusses this dilemma.

... the pendulum [is] swinging towards a sort of coercive treatment scale, so that people are actually being forced into [drug] treatment now, to comply with their JJ orders. I guess more and more of our work's going to be involved in that, even though we try and maintain a voluntary approach to our clients, they're in fact, the clients themselves are in an involuntary system. We try and keep our relationship with them voluntary, but it can be quite hard, because you've got either a JJ or even Child Protection services (3) saying Well, you must see this worker at [the drug agency], you must address your substance use, otherwise you can't stay on this order, or you'll stay in this unit, or breach your conditions in some ways. (MOBJJ2:8)

In the following segment, a detention-based worker employed by a health service implores her young clients to see her as separate from the JJ$ that incarcerates them. When asked if she thought the young people understood the distinction she responded:

Not always, not always, nope. The [younger] boys don't, most of the time, no way, and the girls, I think, probably half of them--probably two-thirds of them understand, (...) I tell them over and over that I work for the Royal Children's Hospital, I work for the hospital, I'm not from here, I don't work for them, I'm not friendly with these people, I don't work for them.... (MOBJJ24:23)

She attempts to engage clients as one would in a voluntary setting. The building of a trust relationship with clients is essential so that the young people themselves will be ready and indeed want to change their drug-using practices. This D&A worker tries to facilitate the young person to engage in the practices of a self-disciplining body.

This in itself places workers and drug-using clients in a difficult position. Health staff often know if individual clients are using or if there are drugs in a residential unit. By distancing themselves from operational staff, health staff often have a more productive therapeutic relationship with clients and can detect the effects of substance use. Although these staff say they are at pains to remind clients that what they disclose to health staff can be passed on to operational staff, this relationship in itself is more likely to result in young people's disclosing that they are using drugs. Most health staff discussed the need to disclose drug use to operational staff to protect young people's safety. The following excerpt is from a detention center-based health worker.

[A client] a while ago talked about using heroin and in fact passed out and woke up a little while later, and none of this was identified by [operational] staff, he just reported this to me. I mean he was continuing to use, so I said to him, "Look, this is the point where I feel that this is getting very unsafe, and whether you like it or not, I'm actually going to take this out of your hands, and um, I appreciate you telling me, and I'm not going off to tell people because I want to get you into trouble, it's because we care, and I want you to be helped, and I don't want you to basically die...." (MOBJJ25:9)

In this example we see not just the mixing of the imperatives of "health" and "corrections," but also different modes of governing young people's drug use. This worker reports a young person's drug use--not because it is illegal, but because of the grave risk of overdose if the client continues to use drugs alone at night. The type of power health workers are usually implicated in involves young people working on their interiority through "self subjectification," and to do this a worker must establish a particular type of relationship with the client. Engaging with health workers offers the client a means by which to access and desire the normative values that underpin the intervention on offer (whether that be safer using strategies, abstinence, or methadone). However, the physical environment of the detention center and the high level of duty of care that workers in these settings hold means that workers are also necessarily implicated in the forms of power more associated with "techniques of domination" that they attempt to distance themselves from. Here we see the specific context of a detention setting rendering as impossible the easy separation of these different forms of power into health or operational roles. This is contrasted with the earlier examples of NGO workers who also work with drug-using JJ clients on community-supervised orders. Although risks of client overdose were still great (with a greater availability of drugs in the community), the distance those workers had from case management and statutory responsibility meant that they continued to engage in relationships aimed at facilitating clients' self-change, rather than directly intervening to contain clients' risk through reincarceration. Importantly, we see that the dilemma for workers is not a simple balancing of opposing imperatives around "health" and "corrections" imperatives, but is about the nature of the disciplinary relationship they hold with clients.

The complexity of workers' roles contributes to an extraordinary environment for young drug users. A "successful" therapeutic relationship, which may lead to the disclosure of risk (e.g., drug overdose) to a trusted worker, can result in being subject to a very different application of power--namely, a room and a body search for secreted drugs. Perhaps of all the workings of risk in the system, the deployment of power through risk-management strategies is the most confusing and undermining for clients and workers alike. The profundity of this for the culture of drug use in the system should not be underestimated.


This paper explored how the JJS (its workers and institutions) operationalize and create drug-use risk through an examination of the knowledges, practices, and expertise utilized within the system. It has focused on how the governance of young people in the juvenile justice system is accomplished in the everyday practices of workers within the system. In particular, the paper examined the forms of knowledge produced through practices such as defining risk, deploying evidence and conceptualizing the client and the roles they play in the emergence of the drug-using client in the JJS. It also examined how workers make visible and interrogate these risks by looking at the role of institutional location and the application of different forms of expertise used in governing young clients. Finally, the findings documented a number of applications of power, which showed the different mechanisms through which workers could intervene in governing the lives of drug-using clients.

Examining the JJS through the perspective of governmentality, we see a complex system that regulates drug-using clients through both techniques of domination and techniques of self. We see the involvement of a web of interconnected apparatus linking state-run detention centers to contracted welfare organizations to more local sites such as the young person's family and community. Through this network young people are exposed to a range of often contested and contradictory forms of expertise and authority. We also see a number of ways in which the JJS attempts to calculate and thus control the risk that clients are exposed to. Many of the social technologies, such as CSP and case-management approaches, indicate the centrality of young people's seeking to refashion themselves.

The analysis highlights that the risk assembled in the bodies of young JJ clients is produced in the intermingling of the clients' own practices as well as the understandings and applications of strategies to manage risk within the larger system in which clients are governed. Through the individualization of risk, the role the JJS itself plays in producing risk becomes obscured. It is essential that analyses of risk account for the contribution of systems and structures in the production of risk.


(1.) Victoria has three detention centers. JJUs are located in each of the nine state health regions; some larger regions have multiple JJUs.

(2.) This refers to a staged model of change commonly adopted in substance abuse counseling.

(3.) The Child Protection Services system looks after the welfare of clients deemed "at risk" due to factors not necessarily related to young people's offending. However, many JJ clients are also "dual order" clients--that is, they are also under an order of the Child Protection Services branch of the DHS. Commonly the differentiation in what these two aspects of the DHS deals with is referred to as "deeds versus needs." The reforms to the Child Protection Act of Victoria in 1989 sought to more distinctly separate these two concerns.


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AUTHOR'S NOTE: This research was funded by a CARG Collaborating Centre grant provided by the Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care. Thanks to John Fitzgerald, Shelley Mallet, Sandy Gifford and the editor for comments on an earlier draft of this paper. Thanks also to Katrina Newnham and Peta Malins for research assistance.

MARY O'BRIEN is a research fellow at the Australian Research Centre on Sex, Health and Society at La Trobe University (First Floor, 215 Franklin St., Melbourne, Vic. 3000, Australia; Mary. O'Brien She is engaged in collaborative projects on living with hepatitis C and in research on social and cultural aspects of blood-borne viruses and risk. Her dissertation was on Narcotics Anonymous as a Social Field (1999).
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Author:O'brien, Mary
Publication:Contemporary Drug Problems
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Dec 22, 2001
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