Justice Quarterly Volume: 21 Issue: 3 Dated: September 2004 Pages: 547-578
This study examined the perceptions of juvenile girls held by those working within the juvenile justice system in Arizona.
Those working in the field of juvenile justice have long focused on raising awareness about the unique challenges and needs faced by girls within the juvenile justice system. Drawing on research and theories about the social construction of gender, race, culture, and class, the authors examined official case file narratives from the records of 174 girls referred to juvenile probation in Arizona during 1999 and interviewed 14 juvenile probation officers to assess whether gender, race, and class influenced the perceptions of girls held by juvenile justice personnel. Three dominant themes emerged from the qualitative data analysis: (1) the disparity between perceptions of the girls as whiny and manipulative and the realities of the girls’ lives; (2) the disparity between perceptions of the girls’ families as “trashy” and the realities of the families’ circumstances; and (3) the lack of knowledge among the juvenile justice professionals regarding culturally and gender appropriate treatments and the programming options available for girls. Stereotypical images and accounts of the girls outweighed information regarding the realities of their circumstances. As such, the authors assert that the social construction of gender, race, and class has a significant impact on girls in the juvenile justice system. The scarcity of information on available programming and the lack of funding for gender- and culturally-specific programming have a destructive impact on the lives of girls within the juvenile and adult criminal justice systems. Future research should continue to probe the most effective programming for delinquent girls. References
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