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Negotiating evaluation: Story structure and appraisal in youth justice conferencing

Authors:
THIS IS A PRE-PROOF VERSION OF Martin, J, Zappavigna, M. & Dwyer, P. (2010). Negotiating
evaluation: story structure and appraisal in Youth Justice Conferencing. A. Mahboob & N.
Knight (Eds.) Appliable Linguistics. London: Continuum. pp. 44-75.
Negotiating evaluation: story structure and appraisal in youth justice conferencing
J R Martin, M Zappavigna & P Dwyer
1
University of Sydney
Abstract
Youth justice conferences operate as a diversionary form of sentencing in the juvenile justice system of New
South Wales, Australia. Typically, they involve a young person who has committed an offence coming face to
face with the victim of their crime, in the presence of family members, community workers, police and a
conference ‘convenor’. Conference participants are encouraged to discuss the full range of material, emotional
and psychological impacts of the young person’s crime and to cooperate in developing an ‘outcome plan’
according to which the young person undertakes certain tasks (eg. community service) as a way of ‘making
amends’. In this chapter, we report on some of our preliminary work on genre structure, particularly in relation
to the accounts young people provide of their offending behaviour. We examine the role of evaluative language
in and around these accounts to show how the young person’s behaviour is being interpreted and re-framed in
line with a ‘genre identity’ which the conference structure makes available to the young person. We conclude
with some observations about the way this connects to the ritual-like characteristics of the genre as a whole.
1. Youth justice conferencing
Youth justice conferencing, a diversionary program operating in the juvenile justice system of New South
Wales, Australia, is one of several innovative genres of legal practice that have been recently introduced in
jurisdictions around the world under the banner of a reform movement generally known as ‘restorative justice’.
2
In the most basic terms, these conferences involve people who have been caught up in an incident of youth
crime coming together, sitting in a circle, discussing the impact of the criminal behaviour and (within certain
legislative guidelines) deciding for themselves how the young person who committed the offence can best make
amends. The willingness of governments to experiment with such reforms might be seen as counter-intuitive
given that many politicians owe their electoral successes to populist ‘get tough and lock ’em up’ policies and
regularly engage in the rhetoric of ‘zero tolerance’ against even fairly minor criminal activity. However, as the
failure of these policies to reduce crime rates becomes more apparent than ever and as prison populations
continue to grow, it is not so surprising that alternatives are being considered, albeit quietly and often with
minimal resources. At any rate, initiatives such as youth justice conferencing demonstrate a quite remarkable
investment of hope in the power of talk to effect profound change in attitudes and behaviour.
Criminological research into conferencing has predominantly taken a quantitative approach to investigating
such matters as whether or not the process can help reduce recidivism rates, how the time and cost factors
involved compare to those in conventional court proceedings, and the levels of satisfaction reported by
conference participants (Maxwell and Morris 2001; Palk, Hayes and Prenzler 1998; Strang et al. 1999; Trimboli
2000). While the question of recidivism rates is perhaps not fully settled, results from these studies have
generally been encouraging in this regard and have also repeatedly demonstrated that both offenders and victims
overwhelmingly report a very high degree of satisfaction. There has been little research, however, of a more
qualitative nature directed towards describing and explaining what it is that participants in a conference are
actually doing, namely interacting through spoken discourse and other communicative modes. Most of the
theoretical work carried out by criminologists and social psychologists who have sought to account for the
efficacy of conferencing has instead revolved around concepts such as ‘re-integrative shaming’ (Braithwaite
1989; Ahmed et al. 2001), ‘social bond threats’ (Retzinger and Scheff 1996) or, via the neo-Darwinian affect
theory of the psychologist Silvan Tomkins, ‘emotional contagion’ and ‘collective vulnerability’ (Moore and
2
McDonald 2001). The ideal/typical conference, as portrayed in the restorative justice literature, is often a kind
of passion play with a core sequence of remorse, apology and forgiveness (Hayes 2006).
As specialists in functional linguistics, social semiotics and performance studies, our aim is to look more closely
at the verbal and non-verbal interactions in conferencing in order to describe the way in which meaning is being
negotiated among participants. In our fieldwork to date (observations of 10 youth justice conferences, of which
5 were videotaped and have been transcribed), conference participants have, from time to time, made manifest
their heightened emotions; however, this has not occurred as often, nor necessarily in the same ways, as
suggested by the ‘passion play scenario’ described above. In what follows, we report on some of our
preliminary work on genre structure, particularly in relation to the accounts young people provide of their
offending behaviour. We examine the role of evaluative language in and around these accounts, using this
appraisal analysis (Martin & Rose 2007) to show how the young person’s behaviour is being interpreted and re-
framed in line with a ‘genre identity’ which the conference structure makes available to the young person. We
then conclude with some observations about the way this connects to some ritual-like characteristics of the
genre as a whole.
2. Generic structure
Youth justice conferences take place as an alternative to sentencing in the children’s court (at the
recommendation of either a magistrate or the police) in cases where a young person has admitted their guilt and
agrees to have the matter settled by conference.
3
Typically, the conference will bring the young person into a
face-to-face meeting with the victim of the crime (or a victim’s representative), in the presence of each party’s
family members, friends, possibly a school teacher or social worker who knows the young person, and a police
youth liaison officer (also, on occasion, the arresting officer and, where relevant, an ethnic or indigenous
community liaison officer). The conference is convened by a private citizen who, while trained and accredited
by the state to do this work, is not acting in a direct judicial or law enforcement capacity. Rather, the convenor’s
role is to facilitate a ‘structured conversation’ (Moore and McDonald 2000: 14) in which the participants are
encouraged to discuss not only how the crime occurred but also how they have been personally affected by any
material damages, emotional/psychological distress or harm to relationships. The participants must then
negotiate agreement on an ‘outcome plan’ according to which the young person commits to certain tasks (a
formal apology, payment of some monetary compensation, volunteer work in a community organisation etc.) as
a way of ‘putting things right’.
As this description suggests, youth justice conferencing is very much a designed genre and convenors are
trained to implement this design.
4
As part of this training, convenors are provided with a synopsis of what are
considered the major steps in a conference, along with suggested questions/prompts to use (although there is
some debate in the field as to how closely these prompts should be followed; see Moore and McDonald 2000;
Hoyle et al. 2002). For us, technically speaking, conferencing is a macro-genre (Martin & Rose 2008),
involving a series of elemental genres, each of which appears to have its own recurrent configurations of
meaning and staging according to the task involved. We offer the following as a provisional characterisation of
these elements (parentheses indicate optional elements):
gathering
legal framing
commissioned recount of the offence
exploring consequences for various parties
(apologies and acknowledgments)
tabling possible remedies
(break and private negotiations)
brokering a collective agreement
ratification of outcome plan
(apologies and acknowledgments)
formal closing
(shared refreshments)
dispersal
3
Even as participants arrive and gather for a conference, roles and expectations are already being negotiated
(convenors, when interviewed, have commented on the impact which a participant’s choice of clothing can have
on other participants and have mentioned the value of sometimes ‘stage-managing’ the order in which
participants arrive, either to heighten or lessen possible feelings of tension and confrontation). Once gathered
and seated in a circle, the convenor will make a brief speech during which the conference is constituted as a
legal process, with confirmation of, among other things, the offender’s admission of guilt. This is succeeded by
a series of recounts and rejoinders by various parties, establishing from different perspectives the events leading
up to and constituting the offence, and exploring their repercussions. Often, the convenor will return at this
point to the offender and ask if there is ‘anything else’ they want to say to any of the other conference
participants (an implicit invitation to make an apology which is not always taken up). Participants are
encouraged to make some initial suggestions for an outcome plan. They are offered a break, during which the
different parties (associated with the offender and victim, respectively) can consider more concrete proposals.
When the participants are brought back into the circle by the convenor, these proposals are collectively
discussed and, following verbal agreement, the details are written up and read back to the group. Where the
outcome plan explicitly requires an apology, this can sometimes be made on the spot. This is followed by a
formal closing, the option of shared refreshments and dispersal.
5
We are currently working towards a more precise functional labelling of the elemental genres described above
and suggest the term ‘Commissioned Recount’ for the account of offending behaviour which is given by the
young person just after the start of the conference. This term is intended to capture the way in which, typically,
the account has to be ‘extracted’ by the convenor from a less than forthcoming adolescent. It has the following
generic structure (^ signals sequence in this notation and parentheses are used to indicate optional elements of
structure):
Orientation ^ Record of events ^ (Re-Orientation) ^ (Extension) ^ Interpretation ^ Ramifications
This genre begins with an Orientation which sets the recount in time and space and introduces the main
participants; it continues with a Record of events, which presents the sequence of events leading up to and
constituting the offence from the young person's perspective; the next stage, Re-Orientation is optional and
wraps up the recount and returns participants from reconstructed past events to the spatio-temporal setting of the
conference itself; this is followed by an optional Extension stage which a convenor may deploy to elicit a fuller
account from the young person
6
; in the following Interpretation stage the recount is evaluated, as emotions and
social values in relation to the offence are explored; finally in the Ramifications stage, some of the pertinent
consequences of the offence are canvassed. In the next section of the paper we'll consider two examples of this
genre, one concerning a mobile phone which has been stolen and passed on to a young man who is subsequently
charged with possession of the stolen goods, the other concerning an affray.
7
Elsewhere (Martin et al.
forthcoming), we have used these examples to place the commissioned recount genre in relation to the larger
family of story genres (Martin & Rose 2008) and to show how (in contrast to, say, personal recounts) evaluation
tends to get bundled separately from the record of events. We will cover some of this ground again here but
extend the argument by means of a more detailed appraisal analysis, showing not only where but also more
precisely how, and by whom, the offending behaviour is evaluated.
3. Two stories
Our first example of the commissioned recount genre is developed below. Given the floor by the convener, the
young person begins as follows:
I was walking to a mate's house
And [inaudible] and I was walking with him.
This guy just came up to me
and he goes ‘Do you want to buy this phone?’
At this point the convener interrupts him, in order to ask him to speak louder
8
(for the benefit of the Police
Liason Officer who, she says, has a cold, and perhaps also for the benefit of our recording process). He then
resumes, in a slightly louder voice:
4
Yeah, I was, I was walking to a mate's house.
This guy just came up to me
and goes ‘Do you want to buy a phone?’
and I go ‘No’
and I go ‘Do you want to swap?’
[inaudible] want to swap with my phone
and he looked at my phone
and he goes ‘Yeah’
and we swap
and I went and stayed at my mate's house
and when it came to night time I was going back home,
and we was walking, was walking up the road
and the police just came and got us.
The convener at this point nods encouragingly, in case the young person wishes to expand on his statement - an
invitation the young person declines:
...[convener nodding]
That's it.
In terms of genre staging, this is a typical recount (Martin & Rose 2008), beginning with an Orientation,
establishing the Record of Events and closing with a Re-orientation, as follows:
Orientation
Yeah, I was, I was walking to a mate's house.
Record of events
This guy just came up to me
and goes ‘Do you want to buy a phone?’
and I go ‘No’
and I go ‘Do you want to swap?’
[inaudible] want to swap with my phone
and he looked at my phone
and he goes ‘Yeah’
and we swap
and I went and stayed at my mate's house
and when it came to night time I was going back home,
and we was walking, was walking up the road
and the police just came and got us.
Re-orientation
That's it.
The convener then scaffolds an extension of what happened, covering events at the police station:
[And then what happened? They came and got you. They found the phone. What did they say to you?]
- They go that this phone was stolen
[OK. What did you say?]
- I go, you know, I swapped it. Yeah, they just took took me.
[Took you where?]
- Police station
[And who did they ring when they brought you to the police station?]
- My dad.
5
Our second example of a commissioned recount has a longer record of events, as the young person recounts
what happened when he went to back up a mate who had arranged to fight someone one-on-one; the 'duel' gets
out of hand, someone is stabbed; the young person responds by chasing the rival gang-member who did the
stabbing, threatening him, throwing bricks across the road at him, causing damage to property and apparently
terrifying a number of bystanders. He has pleaded guilty to a charge of affray (though at the conference he
initially introduces himself as ‘the victim’ and has to be corrected by the convenor). His account begins as
follows:
It was up there -
It was - [inaudible] on a Tuesday yeah. [inaudible]
and I got a call from my friend, Vxxxx, [inaudible] to come down to [name of suburb].
Something going on;
but when I went down with them to [name of different suburb] station
and jumped on the train [inaudible]
and the train we got it straight to [name of suburb],
we got off at [name of suburb]
[inaudible] Mxxxx and other - his other two friends .
And they had a one on one
and I jumped in
and I turn around.
I was having a go with his friends
and the [one] next to me got stabbed
and he [inaudible] goes ‘Chase him!’
and I went and chased him,
started chucking stuff at him,
hitting him.
I couldn't stop him.
He still had the knife in his hand
and after that I walked back to the station to see Vxxxx
and I see the policeman coming as I walked away
and [inaudible] happened to him
and I said to the two officers ‘Assault me, search me.’
They took out all my stuff
and they found out I was involved
and they took me back to the police station.
And my [inaudible]
and I had an interview
and they took my pants, my hat, my jacket
and I was released.
This recount once again begins with an Orientation and continues with a Record of Events; but there is no
formal closing (i.e. Coda):
Orientation
It was up there -
It was- [inaudible] on a Tuesday yeah. [inaudible]
Record of Events
and I got a call from my friend, Vxxxx, [inaudible] to come down to [name of suburb].
Something going on;
but when I went down with them to [name of different suburb] station
...
and they found out I was involved
and they took me back to the police station.
...
and I had an interview
6
and they took my pants, my hat, my jacket
and I was released.
The Convenor then scaffolds a long Extension stage, exploring why the young offender went to back up his
mate, and establishing that he was charged with possession of a knife:
[Convenor And when you- when you decided you would go down and help your friend, what did he
actually say to you?]
- He was going to see Mxxxx.
[And why was he going to see Mxxxx?]
- Because Mxxxx offered him out.
9
[Offered what?]
- Nah [inaudible] two of us have a go like one on one.
[To fight?]
- Yeah.
[And so why did he need you there if he was going to fight him one on one?]
- Because I'm closer [inaudible]. He trusts me like in case anything happens because I've known him
since primary.
[And why did he think something would happen? ]
- [pause] In case.
[And when you went to this location you had something on your person. You had something with you.
What was that?]
- The knife.
[So you want to tell us about the knife?]
- [inaudible] didn't know I even had it on me. Forgot I had it on me the whole time and then I couldn't
remember I had it until they [inaudible] and pulled it out and showed them. It doesn't even work. You
can't even use it.
[But it's not actually a knife.]
- No.
[A knife is included in it isn't it? ]
- Yes.
[What else is it?]
- A can opener, screwdriver
[And so when the police, um, searched you and found the um, what are they, a Leatherman? Is that
what they're called? ]
[Arresting Officer A Leatherman sort of tool.]
[Convenor When they found that what did you say to them?]
- Said it's for work.
[Tell everybody what you did for work back then.]
- Panel beater.
7
[So, as I explained to you the other day, why do you think the police charged you with having that
weapon in your possession?]
- [inaudible] They thought I got ready for a fight... to use it
[And what else did they say to you? Do you remember?]
- Nup.
[Did they say anything to you about the fact that it, you know, as a panel beater you probably don't
need a knife?]
- Yes.
[Is that - do you think that's reasonable?]
- Yes.
[So you accept the fact that you got charged with the possession of the knife.]
- Yes.
[Alright and then when you chased after Nxxxx what were you going to do when you caught him?]
- Wasn't going to fuck with him. Was going to bring him back.
[Bring him back to where?]
- The station... Well I couldn't, he had the knife in his hand still.
[What did you think when you saw Nxxxx with the knife?]
- I didn't want to get - I didn't want to get [next to him] in case I got stabbed. If I only had the knife I
would have pulled it out on him too but I didn't have it. I forgot I had it on me.
[So what did he say to you when you- when you caught up with him?]
- He just goes ‘What did I do? I didn't do nothing’.
[And then what did you do to him?]
- I chased him until he went in - inside a shop.
[Yeah. And then what did you do?]
- I went back to the station and I went back down and that's when I got stopped.
Unlike personal recounts, which have an ongoing prosody of evaluation, these commissioned recounts are
ideationally focused. Their ‘point’ is to establish the young person’s account of the sequence of events leading
to his arrest (comparable to the police record of events). Evaluation of their significance for the youth justice
conference is negotiated by the convenor after their dialogic extension. In this respect they contrast markedly
with personal recounts deployed to sustain solidarity with partners, friends and family. The following excerpt
from a long written recount demonstrates how on-going evaluation of this kind can be deployed. We've chosen a
text featuring the kind of language young offenders might well use with their mates, to bond with them and
alienate outsiders; it's from a Year 8 (so about 14 years old) female student, from an Indigenous Australian
background.
Fucken Hell man, who the hell told you I liked doing this kind of shit. On Saturday I saw Brian and
Brendon and his Girlfriend at Waterloo, I was waiting to catch the bloody bus, anyway they started
talking to me so that killed a lot of time. Anyway I had to go to the Laundromat Yesterday and I saw
my ex-boyfriend man he looks fucken ugly god knows what I went out with him, he looks like a
fucken dickhead
ANY WAYS HE WAS
so ugly only a blind woman would go out with him. I ran into this elderly man that lived down one of
my old streets and because I had a bag of clothes the stupid cunt said to us are you running away from
home which is bull-shit because the sooner that I got home the happier I would have been. Then my
ex-boyfriend comes up which makes it even worse and he starts calling this old cunt a cradle snatching
little ass-hole. I mean as if its any of his business, and like this is totally humiliating cause I mean
8
everybody and I mean everybody tried to see who the hell was making all the fucken noise and yes
there I was trying to hide my face as soon as possible...
Young offenders studiously avoid anti-language of this kind on youth justice conferences. And the ideational
focus of their 'testimony' is so strong that they regularly avoid evaluative language altogether in their Record of
Events stage.
4. Interpreting the stories
The flat ideational focus of young offenders’ testimony in the Record of Events means that convenors and
liaison officers often take responsibility for interpreting what has happened. To analyse these evaluations we
draw on appraisal theory (Martin & White 2005). As outlined in Fig. 1, APPRAISAL comprises three main
systems, ATTITUDE, GRADUATION and ENGAGEMENT. ATTITUDE is concerned with types of feeling,
GRADUATION with their strength and boundedness, and ENGAGEMENT with their sourcing.
monogloss
ENGAGEMENT
heterogloss
AFFECT
APPRAISAL ATTITUDE JUDGEMENT
APPRECIATION
FORCE
GRADUATION
FOCUS
Fig. 1: APPRAISAL systems (after Martin & White 2005)
Our main concern here will be with attitude, which embraces affect (our emotional reactions), judgement (how
we evaluate people's character and behaviour) and appreciation (the value we place on things). In the examples
below for example, an Ethnic Liaison Officer queries the young person in the affray conference about his
reactions (upset, pissed offaffect), challenges him to re-make his character (how much of a man, wrong
judgment), and comments on how easy it is to break the law (so easyappreciation).
ELO: Hey. You think I'm talking to you now I'm - I'm upset with ya? Do you think I'm pissed off with
ya? I don't know you but do you think I'm upset with ya? [affect highlighted]
ELO: You find out how much of a man it takes, hey?, to stay out of trouble. You tell me which one
takes more of a man to do. How- does it take more of a man to listen to your friends or to say to your
friends, ‘No, what you're doing is wrong’. [judgement highlighted]
ELO: Do you know how easy it is to break the law? It's so easy. [clicks fingers] It's so easy. [clicks
fingers] It is so easy. [appreciation highlighted]
9
In a similar vein, as part of the guided interpretation of the Record of Events in the mobile phone conference,
the Convenor explores the emotional reactions of the young person and his parents, beginning with Dad's anger:
Convenor
And who did they ring when they brought you to the police station?
Young Person
My dad.
Convenor
OK. And what did your dad say? Was he angry, happy?
Young Person
[nods] Angry.
Convenor
Angry. [laughs] Yeah. OK.
And then Mum's:
Convenor
What did mum say when you got home?
Young Person
She was sleeping. [nodding]
Convenor
She was sleeping. Was Mum angry?
Young Person
[nods] Yeah.
Convenor
Did she get upset?
Young Person
[half nod / raises eyes]
And later that of the young person himself, were he to find himself in a comparable situation as victim:
Convenor
So if that was your phone, how would you feel if somebody stole your phone and then, you
know, I decided I wanted to swap it with mine because mine was older. How would you feel
about that?
Young Person
Pretty angry.
Convenor
Yeah.
As far as judgement is concerned, the Convenor also focuses on the young offender's misbehaviour, including
his lack of concern about the phone belonging to someone else:
Convenor
[bobs head] You need to tell us why you took the phone.
10
Young Person
Because it was new.
Convenor
Because it was new. Newer than yours.
Young Person
[nods] Yeah.
Convenor
So you didn't care that it was somebody else's phone? Is that right?
Young Person
Yeah.
Convenor
OK
She checks to make sure the young person can now acknowledge that he did the wrong thing:
10
Convenor
Did he [dad] say anything to you? [pause]
Young Person
Don't go anywhere.
Convenor
Don't go anywhere. As in when you get home you've got to stay at home?
Young Person
[raises eyes in a half-nod]
Convenor
Do you think your father was disappointed in you?
Young Person
[nods] Yep.
Convenor
So you know you did the wrong thing.
And asks him to reaffirm this acknowledgement later on:
Convenor
Tell me what happened when mum found out what you did. [tilts head] [pause] Did she cry?
Young Person
St-() Lecture.
Convenor
You got a lecture. [nodding]
Young Person
[nods]
11
Convenor
Do you think you deserved a lecture?
Young Person
[looks down]
Convenor
Why did you deserve the lecture?
Young Person
Because I did something wrong.
Convenor
Yep. [nods]
She gets the young person to confirm that his parents have acted reasonably in grounding him:
Convenor
So it's quite limiting in terms of what you can do. And that's- Do you understand that that was
the consequence of what you did?
Young Person
[nods] Yeah.
Convenor
Yeah? Do you think that was reasonable what mum and dad did, grounding you?
Young Person
[nods]
Convenor
Yeah?
Young Person
[nods]
She also checks twice that the young person has apologised
11
to his victim, who is not in fact present at this
conference:
Convenor
Right and what did you- Did you say anything to him when you found out that it was his phone?
Young Person
[shakes head] Nah.
Convenor
So you didn't say sorry to him? [shaking head]
Young Person
(Nah),I said sorry and he goes ‘you don't have to say sorry , it wasn't you that did it.’
Convenor
Right. [half nodding] OK.
12
Convenor
Hey? So you've apologised to Jxxx already.
Young Person
Yeah.
Convenor
OK.
The Convenor also guides the young offender towards expressions of remorse:
Convenor
Do you think that mum and dad were disappointed in you?
Young Person
[nods]
Convenor
[nods] Were you disappointed in yourself? Or Not? Or you don't care?
Young Person
[nods] Yeah.
Convenor
Yeah or you don't care? [nodding]
Young Person
Disappointed in myself.
Convenor
[tilts head] You are.
Young Person
[nods]
The Convenor's exploration of affectual meaning in the Interpretation stage of the mobile phone Commissioned
Recount is outlined in Table 1. [As footnoted above, disappointed, sorry, and apologise have been double
coded for AFFECT and JUDGEMENT and so entered in both Tables 1 and 2.] Including the two inscriptions of
happiness, which are tendered ironically by the Convenor, the family experiences only negative emotions.
appraising
item
ATTITUDE
POLARITY
emoter
trigger
angry
dis/satisfaction
negative
father of YP
YP at police station
happy
un/happiness
positive (ironic)
father of YP
YP at police station
angry
dis/satisfaction
negative
father of YP
YP at police station
angry
dis/satisfaction
negative
father of YP
YP at police station
happy
un/happiness
positive (ironic)
father of YP
YP at police station
disappointed
dis/satisfaction
negative
father of YP
YP
sorry
un/happiness
negative
young person
receiving phone
sorry
un/happiness
negative
young person
receiving phone
angry
dis/satisfaction
negative
mother of YP
YP receiving phone
upset
un/happiness
negative
mother of YP
YP receiving phone
13
cry
un/happiness
negative
mother of YP
YP receiving phone
angry
dis/satisfaction
negative
young person
hypothetically having own phone
stolen
apologised
un/happiness
negative
young person
receiving phone
disappointed
dis/satisfaction
negative
YP's parents
young person
disappointed
dis/satisfaction
negative
young person
young person
disappointed
dis/satisfaction
negative
young person
young person
Table 1: Inscriptions of affect in the Interpretation stage of the mobile phone recount
Judgement is also largely negative, focusing mainly on the young person's behaviour.
speaker!
appraising
item
attitude
polarity
appraiser
appraised
young person
stolen
propriety
negative
police
person stealing phone
convenor
stolen
propriety
negative
young person
person stealing phone
convenor
stolen
propriety
negative
young person
person stealing phone
convenor
disappointed
propriety
negative
father of young person
young person
convenor
wrong
propriety
negative
convenor
YP receiving phone
convenor
sorry
propriety
negative
young person
YP receiving phone
young person
sorry
propriety
negative
young person
YP receiving phone
young person
wrong
propriety
negative
convenor
YP receiving phone
convenor
stole
propriety
negative
convenor
hypothetical thief
convenor
stolen
propriety
negative
convenor
hypothetical thief
young person
stolen
propriety
negative
convenor
hypothetical thief
convenor
good
propriety
positive
convenor
young person agreeing
reasonable
propriety
positive
convenor
Mum/Dad grounding YP
apologised
propriety
negative
young person
YP receiving phone
disappointed
propriety
negative
young person’s parents
young person
disappointed
propriety
negative
young person
young person
young person
disappointed
propriety
negative
young person
young person
Table 2: Inscriptions of judgement in the Interpretation stage of the mobile phone recount
Looked at in terms turn-taking (Martin et al. in press), what is significant here is that the Convenor initiates
virtually all exchanges and introduces virtually all explicit evaluation, to which the young person responds
compliantly a word or phrase at a time. The result is an interpretation of the recount determined by the
Convenor - it's the Convenor, not the young person, who controls what the recount means.
Interpretation of the impact of the Commissioned Recount is of course crucial to the re-alignment of the young
person, away from their circle of misguiding mates, and towards their family and wider community. Returning
to the example of the affray conference, it is the Ethnic Liaison Officer who intervenes to extend the convener’s
interpretation, apparently out of frustration with its effectiveness to that point in the conference. He makes
explicit reference to icons of the Muslim cultural background which he shares with the young person, beginning
with the headscarf worn by the young person's mother:
Ethnic Liaison Officer
Listen, [looking to the convenor] I want to take, with your permission, I wanna take a different
angle. OK? Mate, what's your mum wearing on her head?
Young Person
Scarf.
14
Ethnic Liaison Officer
Yeah. OK.
He then focuses attention on the fact that because of what the young person has done, his mother, through no
fault of her own, is now sitting in the presence of uniformed police.
Ethnic Liaison Officer
What a- where is she now? In the presence of who?
Young Person
= Me.
Ethnic Liaison Officer
= Who- who's- No. Who's sitting here? Who's sitting here right now? Have a look across.
Young Person
Men.
Ethnic Liaison Officer
Have a- but have a look across. What uniform are they wearing?
Young Person
Police uniform.
Ethnic Liaison Officer
OK.
This sets up the ELO's concern abut the bad impression the young person is creating for himself, and the
Muslim community:
Ethnic Liaison Officer
[pointing to the university researchers] Where are these guys from? They're from a certain
place. OK. What's the perception going to be?
Young Person
Think bad of me.
Ethnic Liaison Officer
What are they gonna- when they see your mum wearing a scarf, I'm Muslim background
myself. What are they going to think?
Young Person
Bad.
Ethnic Liaison Officer
OK.
This was a very sensitive issue at the time since former Prime Minister John Howard's neo-conservative
government had fanned the flames of anti-Muslim ethnic prejudice by playing up the issue of ‘border
protection’, incarcerating mostly Iraqi and Afghani asylum-seekers and manipulating nationalist sentiment in
support of Australian troops joining the American invasion of Iraq. In Sydney, racial tension in fact erupted in
violent conflict between 'white Australian' and Lebanese youth in what became known as the Cronulla riots.
Then ELO then questions the idea that there is something tough about the young person's behaviour:
15
Ethnic Liaison Officer
I'm asking you YP. OK. Because I'm listening to you man and I don't see you as a leader at the
moment. I see you following your friends. I see your friends say jump, you say how high. That's
how I see you. OK.
Young Person
Yeah.
Ethnic Liaison Officer
You wanta be tough. But you just- you're not, number one.
He makes clear his revulsion at the fact that the young person is embarrassing his mother (and the Muslim
community she symbolises) in this way:
Ethnic Liaison Officer
Number two, man, when I see someone of my own background bringing their mum in wearing a
Hejab, OK, honestly man inside I feel sick. You understand?
Young Person
Yes.
As far as judgement is concerned, the ELO's Interpretation centres on honesty, manly in relation to the young
person's sincerity (see Table 3).
speaker
appraising item
social
esteem
social
sanction
explicit
implicit
ethnic liaison officer
I honestly don't think you do
veracity
inscribe
ethnic liaison officer
I'm being honest with ya
veracity
inscribe
ethnic liaison officer
honest
veracity
inscribe
young person
honest
veracity
inscribe
ethnic liaison officer
swear
veracity
inscribe
young person
swear
veracity
inscribe
ethnic liaison officer
honest
veracity
inscribe
young person
Yeah [honest]
veracity
inscribe
ethnic liaison officer
honest
veracity
inscribe
Table 3: Inscriptions of honesty in the ELO's Intepretation stage of the affray recount
The young person's capacities are also explored, including his lack of leadership, manhood and ability to control
his temper (see Table 4).
Speaker
appraising item
social
esteem
social
sanction
explicit
implicit
ethnic liaison
officer
don't see you as a leader
capacity
inscribe
tough… you're not
capacity
inscribe
(you think...) hard
criminal
capacity
inscribe
ethnic liaison
officer
I've got half a brain
capacity
provoke
how much of a man
capacity
more of a man
capacity
more of a man
capacity
16
ethnic liaison
officer
you can control yourself
capacity
inscribe
young person
I can control myself
capacity
inscribe
I can't [control myself]
capacity
inscribe
Just can't [control
myself]
capacity
inscribe
ethnic liaison
officer
temper
capacity
young person
Yeah [temper]
capacity
ethnic liaison
officer
(if...) smart
capacity
inscribe
Table 4: Inscriptions of capacity in the ELO's Intepretation stage of the affray recount
But the majority of the explicit judgements deal with the impropriety of the young person's behaviour (see Table
5).
Speaker
appraising item
social
esteem
social
sanction
explicit
implicit
young person
bad
propriety
inscribe
bad
propriety
inscribe
ethnic liaison
officer
put down our community
propriety
inscribe
put down our religion
propriety
inscribe
put down the Hejab
propriety
inscribe
contradicting our religion
propriety
inscribe
respect your mum
propriety
inscribe
young person
Yes [respect]
propriety
inscribe
ethnic liaison
officer
No you don't [respect]
propriety
inscribe
you don't respect your mum
propriety
inscribe
You have no respect for your
mum
propriety
inscribe
You have no respect for your
mum whatsoever
propriety
inscribe
You have no respect for what your
mum's got on her head
propriety
inscribe
You have no respect for our
community
propriety
inscribe
You have no respect
propriety
inscribe
trying to impress
propriety
(the right) to go and hurt other
people
propriety
inscribe
young person
No right [hurt]
propriety
inscribe
he hurt my mate
propriety
inscribe
That's it [hurt]
propriety
ethnic liaison
officer
if you get a job you'll be out of
trouble
propriety
inscribe
if you don't get a job you'll get
into trouble
propriety
inscribe
responsibility
propriety
inscribe
break the law
propriety
inscribe
17
break the law
propriety
inscribe
breaking the law
propriety
inscribe
try staying out of trouble
propriety
inscribe
stay out of trouble
propriety
inscribe
wrong
propriety
inscribe
disrespecting
propriety
inscribe
disrespect
propriety
inscribe
no respect
propriety
inscribe
laugh at your face
propriety
inscribe
pretend that they care
propriety
inscribe
wrong
propriety
inscribe
trouble
propriety
inscribe
getting your mum into this crap
propriety
inscribe
getting your family into this crap
propriety
inscribe
not right
propriety
inscribe
no good
propriety
inscribe
good person
propriety
inscribe
not good
propriety
inscribe
trouble
propriety
inscribe
hurting
propriety
inscribe
hurting
propriety
inscribe
don't care
propriety
inscribe
alright
propriety
inscribe
alright
propriety
inscribe
Table 5: Inscriptions of propriety in the ELO's Intepretation stage of the affray recount
As flagged above, the ELO is especially concerned about the lack of respect being shown by the young person
for his family (see Table 6).
Speaker
appraising item
social
esteem
social
sanction
explicit
implicit
ELO
bad
propriety
inscribe
respect your mum
propriety
inscribe
young person
Yes [respect]
propriety
inscribe
ELO
No you don't [respect]
propriety
inscribe
you don't respect your mum
propriety
inscribe
You have no respect for your mum
propriety
inscribe
You have no respect for your mum
whatsoever
propriety
inscribe
disrespecting
propriety
inscribe
disrespect
propriety
inscribe
no respect
propriety
inscribe
getting your mum into this crap
propriety
inscribe
getting your family into this crap
propriety
inscribe
hurting
propriety
inscribe
hurting
propriety
inscribe
don't care
propriety
inscribe
Table 6: Inscriptions of impropriety in relation to Mum
18
And, paralleling this, the lack of respect being shown to the Muslim community (see Table 7):
Speaker
appraising item
social
esteem
social
sanction
explicit
implicit
bad
propriety
inscribe
ELO
put down our community
propriety
inscribe
put down our religion
propriety
inscribe
put down the Hejab
propriety
inscribe
contradicting our religion
propriety
inscribe
You have no respect for what your
mum's got on her head
propriety
inscribe
You have no respect for our community
propriety
inscribe
You have no respect
propriety
inscribe
don't care
propriety
inscribe
Table 7: Inscriptions of impropriety in relation to the Muslim community
As with the Convenor's Interpretation of the mobile phone recount, the ELO initiates all of the exchanges; and,
once again, the interpretation of the commissioned recount is jointly constructed with the ELO assuming
control, proffering virtually all evaluations, and with the young person responding a word or phrase at a time.
As far as attitude is concerned, the ELO’s interpretation of the recount has some affect but concentrates mainly
on judgement. Interestingly, the ELO does not condemn the young person per se but focuses largely on his
behaviour.
Ethnic Liaison Officer
Why don't you look at why we're here today? Are we here because of me?
Young Person
No.
Ethnic Liaison Officer
Are we- who are we here for?
Young Person
Because of me.
Ethnic Liaison Officer
Not because of you as a person because of something you're doing that's not right. You’re
probably a good person. What you're doing is not good. You understand the difference?
Young Person
Yes.
Ethnic Liaison Officer
We're not saying, ‘Mxxx, you're a this and you're a that’. What we're saying is your behaviour is
getting you into trouble, man. You're hurting your family, brother. You're hurting your [Arabic],
brother. You understand?
Young Person
Yes.
Ethnic Liaison Officer
If I didn't care about ya, man, I didn't care about your mum, I didn't care about, you know, the
Den and everything, I wouldn't even be here. I mean, I've finished my work. But if we- if
everyone here today could help you just to sorta think to yourself, ‘What am I doing to my
19
family? What am I doing to myself?’, man, Shalam. That's what it's all about. That's is what
today is all about. It's about you sitting down and having a look- ...
The ELO seems to exemplify here what John Braithwaite, one of the leading theorists of restorative justice, sees
as central to the efficacy of conferencing, namely a process of ‘reintegrative’ (rather than ‘stigmatizing’)
shaming: ‘communicating disapproval of an act with respect, with special efforts to avert outcast identities and
to terminate disapproval with rituals of forgiveness or reconciliation’ (Braithwaite in Ahmed et al. 2001: 39). In
the concluding section of this paper, we will place our analyses above in relation to some of the issues that other
restorative justice theorists have raised in regard to Braithwaite’s conceptualisation of shame. At the same time,
however, we want to recuperate the other part of his argument, namely that conferencing as a new genre of legal
process has taken on some ritual, or at least ritual-like, characteristics.
5. Conferencing as ritualised redress
The notion of re-integrative shaming has not been uncontested in the restorative justice literature. Indeed,
Braithwaite and his associates have readily acknowledged the need for ‘repair work to the theory’, including the
need to make distinctions between shame as an emotion and shaming as practice, between ‘unresolved shame’
and ‘embararassmentexposure’, between shame/shaming and pride/praise etc. (Ahmed et al. 2001: 41). Other
theorists have downplayed altogether the centrality of shame (Morris 2002) or else interpreted it more as a
collective experience, a ‘visceral reminder’ to participants that they ‘can experience positive emotions in each
other’s company’ which thereby prompts a transition towards cooperation and resolution of the conference
(Moore and McDonald 2001: 138). Nevertheless, one way or another, the emotional dynamics of conferencing
are seen as critical to its restorative/re-integrative functions, as the following commentary by psychoanalyst
Donald Nathanson (1997: 141) suggests:
Not surprisingly, the initial response of the perpetrator was both indifferent and unconcerned [...]. Yet
as the conference ran on and both family groups began to speak about their estrangement from the
perpetrator, that individual came swiftly to learn that the love of the community was a deeply missed
and quite important part of his or her world. With such recognition came an avalanche of shame, after
which the individual was likely to cry, accept the forgiveness of all concerned, and sign a document
pledging to work in some way to repair or undo the damage produced by the antisocial act.
It has not been our intention here to add yet another layer to these interpretations of shame and other affects but
rather to highlight the fact that, at least for the conferences we have observed and documented, the evaluative
language of affect, appreciation and judgment is rarely used by young people and to show how, where such
evaluations do occur, they are very much co-created and guided by other participants. Of course, the analyses
reported above are dealing mainly with what we have called the Commissioned Recount genre and more
research is needed before we can confidently say that these patterns established at the start of conferences are
maintained throughout. Notwithstanding this caveat, our early findings offer a strong contrast to the
observations of Braithwaite and Mugford in a seminal paper outlining the ‘conditions of successful reintegration
ceremonies’ (which is what they take conferencing to exemplify). In line with the principle that ‘Non-
authoritative actors (victims, offenders, offenders’ families) must be empowered with process control’,
Braithwaite and Mugford interpreted ‘[the] practice of temporally privileging the accounts of the young people
as a desirable way of seeking to empower them in the dialogue. For all parties, success is predicated upon a
significant degree of agency’ (Braithwaite & Mugford 1994: 148-150).
Against this view, our observations are more in line with critique made by criminologist Hennessey Hayes in a
recent re-examination of some major evaluations of conferencing. His most relevant comments can be
summarised as follows:
Results of these major [research] projects, as well as results from the various evaluations studies, are
remarkably consistent and show that offenders and victims view conferencing processes as fair and are
generally satisfied with the outcomes. However, there is less evidence that shows conferences are also
‘restorative’ […] there may be marked limits on how far conferences can go in repairing harm,
inducing remorse, and helping victims and offenders move on […] conferences sometimes do not
induce remorse, young offenders sometimes do not feel sorry and offer an apology, and victims
20
sometimes do not forgive [...] in New Zealand, Maxwell & Morris observed [...] that […] 25% of
victims felt worse for having attended a conference, mainly because 'the victim did not feel that the
young person and his or her family was truly sorry'. (Hayes, 2006: 370; 377-378)
In his paper Hayes reviews two sources of difficulty with the restorative apology-forgiveness ideal. One is that
there can be a drift from apologetic discourse to mitigating accounts, with the young person offering excuses for
their behaviour. The following exchange from our second conference illustrates this point:
Ethnic Liaison Officer
So if you don't like anybody dictating to you what to do right, what gives you the right to go and hurt
other people?
Young Person
No right, but he hurt my mate...
Hayes’ second point has to do with the presence of third parties (e.g. convenor, liaison officers), so that ‘The
youth justice conference process... transforms the private act of apologising and offering forgiveness into a
public drama of restorative justice’ (2006: 379). To these misgivings we can now add our observations
concerning power relations inherent in the genre, and the regulatory role taken up by convenors, police and
liaison officers, which seem to leave little room for the young person to do other than respond compliantly to
evaluations introduced by others. What kind of ‘sincere’ sounding apology is possible when the young person is
so heavily scaffolded?
That said, we do not mean to suggest that scaffolding is necessarily a bad thing. On the contrary, given that
youth justice conferencing is still an emerging genre and a novel, typically one-off experience for most
participants (not to mention the low levels of literacy and fluency in English of some of these participants),
some form of scaffolding is clearly essential. Furthermore, while the regulative discourse in conferencing does
inscribe hierarchical power relations between participants, this is often paired with close and certainly
negotiable relations of solidarity. Indeed, this readily observable tension between the vertical and horizontal
dimensions of tenor aligns with what we, like Braithwaite, are beginning to think of as the ritual-like,
performative ‘force’ of conferencing.
However dismissive we may feel at times about the social value of ceremonies and ritual (or, conversely,
however much we might wish to leave their ineffable mysteries intact), in common sense terms we can all
appreciate the difference between winning a race and the medal/trophy presentation, between passing exams and
the graduation ceremony, between getting together with someone and marriage, between a casual prayer and a
religious service, between dying and the funeral or, in the case of youth crime, between getting caught by the
police and being sentenced. In social semiotic theory, questions about the power of such genres are only
beginning to be explored (cf Bednarek & Martin forthcoming) but, as a starting point, we can look to how
scholars in anthropology and performance studies have thought about these ‘special events (a category that
includes ritual)’ as ‘intensifications of some of the tendencies inherent in ordinary activity, but often latent or
subliminally present’ (Lewis 2008: 43).
Following Victor Turner (1982), for instance, we can consider the problem of youth crime (and the attendant
failure of institutions like the children’s court and juvenile detention centres to deter and/or rehabilitate young
offenders) as a form of ‘social drama’, a breach in the social order which has reached a point of crisis and now
requires redressive action if a profound schism in the community is to be avoided. Turner identifies legal-
judicial processes and ritual performances as the two most important mechanisms of redress though clearly
these are not mutually exclusive options. Some elements of ritual have always existed in courtroom proceedings
but these elements have arguably become less efficacious in recent decades. At the same time, an emergent
genre such as conferencing may be understood as the ritualisation of alternative social processes (police
cautions, family counselling, parent/teacher interviews etc.) as adjuncts to conventional legal-judicial remedies.
We use the term ‘ritualisation’ here to highlight some ‘logical entailments’ (Rappaport 1999: 26) of the genre:
Conferencing practice frequently involves an appeal to tradition and various kinds of authority.
12
In
New Zealand, conferences involving Maori young people typically take place on the marae and begin
with a communal prayer; in other jurisdictions, they may begin with a Bible reading. In New South
21
Wales, though it is a legally-constituted process, youth justice conferencing certainly allows for, and
often seems to encourage, participants to re-frame the matter they are dealing with as an infringement
of family, religious or cultural values, not simply a legal violation: for many citizens, these are no
doubt greater sources of moral authority than the state.
Commensurate with such a sense of moral purpose, conferencing involves a high degree of repetition
and formality. While restorative justice advocates are probably right when they describe the protocols
of conferencing as less alienating than those of courtroom practice, the genre nevertheless involves its
own kind of ‘restrictive code’ (Bernstein 1975; Douglas 1973): hence, the care taken to train of
convenors in the appropriate use of script/prompts, the attention given to briefing participants before
the conference, the highly deliberate turn-taking structures within the conference and so on.
To participate in a conference is also, in a ritual-like manner, to respond to a demand for performance.
Participants will frequently talk of ‘facing up to the challenge’ of meeting the other participants, of
‘getting through’ the conference process in order to be able to ‘draw a line in the sand’ and ‘move on’
with their lives and so on. As Catherine Bell writes, a ‘fundamental dimension of ritualisation’ is ‘the
simple imperative to do something in such a way that the doing itself gives the acts a special or
privileged status’ (1997: 166). Indeed, much of what is commonly thought to be ‘symbolic
communication’ in ritual, or ritual-like processes, might be better understood in terms of the cultivation
of embodied dispositions: ‘the act of kneeling does not so much communicate a message about
subordination as it generates a body identified with subordination’ (Bell 1992: 99-100). While the
physical spaces in which youth justice conferences are held, in our experience, rarely feature such
obvious rallying symbols or ‘bond-icons’ (Martin 2008; Martin and Stenglin 2007; Stenglin 2004) as
those of a courtroom (the national flag, the coat of arms etc.), the enactment of the conference itself
seems to become a process in relation to which participants bond.
The public nature of conferencing, as Hayes has argued, may render the putative core sequence of remorse-
apology-forgiveness problematic, yet many participants are still able to say they are satisfied with the process. It
is, after all, an orderly convocation of persons who present themselves to one another as citizens (and as family
members, members of a religious/cultural group etc.) with some interest in promoting orderly behaviour (and in
promoting the authority of family, religion, culture etc. in addition to, or perhaps over and above, the authority
of the state). At the very least, a victim’s words are attended to by an appropriately constituted ‘community of
care’. To do the conference at all requires enacting, on the spot, some of the (re)integrative effects it is hoped
the conference might be able to foster in the longer term: a young person is made to talk and to listen but is also
given, then and there, an opportunity to affiliate with his family, his ethnic group, the wider community (with
the possible support of police liaison officers) alongside, or in place of, his hitherto dominating affiliation with
mates. Who knows which affiliations will stick? The conference is still likely to have emerged as a suitably
formal legal process, though accessible to lay persons, in and through which various preferred affiliations may
be ‘re-presented’ or ‘modelled’ (Handelman 1990). The opportunity for young people, victims, their families,
friends and police to affiliate simply in relation to the doing of a conference is already a paradigm shift for
criminal justice systems which have for so long manifestly failed to rehabilitate offenders and to meet the needs
of victims.
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Maxwell (eds), Restorative Justice for Juveniles: Conferencing, Mediation and Circles. Oxford, UK:
Hart Publishing, pp. 3-16.
23
1
We are indebted to Chris Cleirigh for his help with the appraisal analyses reported on here. We also gratefully
acknowledge the support for this research provided by the Australian Research Council.
2
See Van Ness et al. (2001) and Strang & Braithwaite (2001) for overviews of this movement and descriptions
of related genres such as victim-offender mediation, family group conferencingand circle sentencing’.
3
Under the New South Wales Young Offenders Act (1997), some offences (for instance, drug-related crime and
offences involving serious assault or sexual violence) are excluded for the conferencing program. However,
similar programs in other jurisdictions (eg. South Australia) do include some of these more serious matters.
4
See Moore & McDonald 2001 for an account of how the genre developed in early trials. Our comments here
are also based on participant-observation of 4 training workshops conducted by the NSW Department of
Juvenile Justice.
5
We have documented some variation in the sequence of participants’ recounts and rejoinders; and some
convenors have already canvassed in some detail the major elements of an outcome plan in pre-conference
meetings with the different parties so that the break becomes a time for filling out paperwork (documents to go
back to the children’s magistrates court, participant survey forms etc.).
6
Convenors have read the police record of events, and have met with the police, young person and victim/s
before the conference, and so are fairly familiar with the offence.
7
A person has committed the offence of affray when they use or threaten violence towards another and whose
conduct would cause a person (of reasonable firmness) to fear their personal safety(Criminal Law
Consolidation Act 1935, s83C).
8
In general our male adolescent young offenders speak very softly, making transcription difficult, and causing
hearing difficulties even for those present at the conference.
9
Colloquial expression referring to the offer of a one-on-one fight (duel).
10
Disappointed is double coded as affect and judgement here, since Dad is construed as feeling sad about
something his son has done wrong.
11
Sorry and apologised are also double coded for affect and judgement, since it entails the speaker feeling sad
about something they've done wrong.
12
Many restorative justice advocates invoke as precedents for these innovations in Western legal systems the
example of dispute resolution customs in Melanesian, indigenous Australian or other ‘traditional’ cultures.
While, as Cuneen (2002) has pointed out, these comparisons can be very misleading, conferencing, as a
‘fragmented’ form of justice has at least proved ‘flexible and accommodating toward cultural differences’ (Daly
2001: 65) and its early development in New Zealand was certainly seen as part of a wider political response to
the over-representation of young Maori and Pacific Islander people in the criminal justice system.
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