Breaking into secure: Introducing philosophical discussions to young people in secure accommodation

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Summary -- This article explores a unique project that introduced a 10-week programme of practical Philosophy with Children to young people living in secure accommodation. It aimed to gauge the extent to which young people in secure accommodation were able to engage in philosophical dialogue and to explore the challenges and opportunities in introducing practical philosophy to young people in secure accommodation. Transcripts of 10 philosophical dialogues were analysed and young people and staff working with them were also interviewed.
Findings -- Following 10 weeks of Community of Philosophical Inquiry sessions, it was evident that the young people were not only able to engage in philosophical dialogue, but also they responded positively to the structures of the sessions. While it may seem counter-intuitive to teach young people to argue, the structures offered by Community of Philosophical Inquiry appear to have been positive in terms of providing young people with the freedom to express their ideas, engage collaboratively with one another, and self-regulate their behaviour.
Applications -- Although secure accommodation can be described as a controlling environment, the model adopted in this study suggests that some forms of control, such as those offered in the practical philosophy sessions, may be liberating for young people in these contexts. This study offers those working with young people in secure accommodation a new perspective on young people’s thinking and a new approach for supporting young people in their care and as they transition to the wider world.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)287-306
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Social Work
Issue number3
Early online date4 Dec 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2020


  • philosophy for children
  • secure accomodation
  • juvenile offenders
  • intervention
  • collaboration
  • control
  • social work


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