Sport in youth detention : A “pedagogical” practice?

Abstract: Sport can be an important part of life inside youth detention, often believed to contribute to the rehabilitation of youth. However, there has been little ethnographic research examining this phenomenon. How is sport arranged, delivered, and experienced in these closed settings? This thesis examines pedagogies of sport in youth detention, based on ethnography at Capeview and Summerholm – two all-male youth detention homes in Sweden. By framing youth detention as pedagogical practice, and through a life-world methodology, the thesis provides close descriptions of sport in which the lived experiences of youth are situated in the particular functions and practices of these institutions.The findings of the thesis are compiled into three independent but interrelated articles. The first article explores a pedagogical approach at Capeview – one of the sites –that a select group of students experienced as initiating and guiding a developmental process. The findings elaborate four aspects of the program – building a pedagogical platform, “seeing” and meeting students, creating a supportive environment, and thinking beyond the institution – that characterized this “rings on the water” (i.e., “ripple effect”) approach. The second article examines the dominant pedagogies of sport at both institutions: withholding sport, busying with sport, and sport as developmental community. Findings illustrate how competing functions of youth justice – punishment, containment, and development – are accomplished, and experienced, through sport pedagogical practice. The third article examines sport in these male-dominated institutions from a masculinities perspective. It shows how pedagogical endeavors must address the impact of divergent notions of masculinity in order to integrate, and avoid further marginalizing, these young men through sport.The principal contribution of the thesis is to show how different sport pedagogies function in order to educate or support and, conversely, contain or punish placed youth– illustrating how desirable benefits of sport in youth detention are contingent upon pedagogical practice. Bringing pedagogical and gender-critical perspectives to bear, it identifies challenges and shortcomings as well as opportunities and promising practices. Endeavors for doing sport for the benefit of detained youth and a safe, just society must consider issues of pedagogy, gender, and philosophical dilemmas such as conflicting missions of education and corrections. Ultimately, efforts to improve outcomes for detained youth through sport calls for tactful pedagogical action, sensitive to the needs, interests, and life-worlds of youth.

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