Rehabilitating and educating for responsible autonomy: two sides of a path to personal and social well-being

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Young offenders’ rehabilitation and education present a set of challenges to
contemporary societies that are particularly felt in the juvenile justice system.
In this paper we discuss some of these challenges, taking into consideration
insights on the daily lives of young offenders who have been placed in
Portuguese custodial institutions in recent years. The Portuguese juvenile
justice system differs from most of those in other EU countries, giving less
importance to the offense than to the need for the offender to be educated
in the fundamental community values that have been violated by the illicit
act. It can be regarded as a third perspective falling in between a welfare
model and a punitive or penal one. The set of educational measures applied
to youth by courts aims to socialise and educate offenders on values protected
by penal law, in a process called education in the law. One of the main goals
of custody is rehabilitation, which, from an educational point of view, could
mean empowering youth with the necessary skills and knowledge to develop
their potential to engage in society in a responsible way. But responsibility and
autonomy are not static concepts; these notions are (re)constructed by youth
in the social contexts in which they live. Working towards a more effective
system requires the promotion of youth’s social participation through which
personal and social well-being can be achieved. Institutional work requires
community engagement in supporting youth and should be focused on a
positive and holistic approach towards offenders, recognising their needs and
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationYouth, offense and well-being: Can science enlighten policy?
EditorsRoberto Carneiro
Place of PublicationLisboa
PublisherCentro de Estudos dos Povos e Culturas de Expressão Portuguesa (CEPCEP)
Number of pages27
ISBN (Print)978-972-9045-36-3
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Young offenders
  • Delinquency
  • Juvenile justice system
  • Rehabilitation
  • Education
  • Autonomy


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