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This article reflects on what we can learn about criminal justice policy and practice approaches to 'socially excluded' young men and women who are 'at risk' of offending, from detailed, long-term, qualitative research with such people. We reflect on young people's views 'from below' of their encounters with police, prison and probation and the consequences of these for their transitions to adulthood. Theoretically, the article concludes that processes of exclusion for these young adults have their basis in macro-level, socio-economic change which frame opportunities, choices and pathways at individual, biographical level. Between these 'public issues' of social structure and 'private troubles' of individual biography, however, are ranged social institutions, such as their various parts of the criminal justice system that we focus on, that can play negative or positive roles in processes of social inclusion and exclusion.
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