Drawing on a qualitative study conducted in England, this article argues that targeted youth projects often benefit participants, but over-stating their ability to prevent crime and anti-social behaviour' can be problematic. Voluntary services with limited resources ultimately focus on receptive young people, but pressure to justify funding encourages practitioners, programme managers and policy-makers to highlight the riskiness' of participants and publicize the most striking successes. Such practices can serve to consolidate negative representations of the risk posed by young people (or define deviance up') and give credence to the notions of choice and intractability that underpin punitive policies. Meanwhile, alternative justifications for youth provision are silenced.
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