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Female Offender: Girls, Women, and Crime

NCJ Number
M Chesney-Lind
Date Published
232 pages
This book examines trends and patterns in female crime and the criminal justice system's response to it.
A chapter on female delinquency examines trends in girls' arrests, the criminalizing of survival mechanisms for girls who have been abused and otherwise victimized, and delinquency theory and gender. Another chapter focuses on girls' participation in gangs and in violent behavior, followed by a chapter on the juvenile justice system's response to girls, as well as society's use of the mental health system to address what society views as problem behaviors by girls. Remaining chapters address trends in women's crime, women's participation in drugs and violence, and trends in imprisoning female offenders. The author argues that girls' troubles create and set the stage for girls' and, ultimately, women's crime. Girls' pathways into crime, even into violence, are affected by the gendered nature of their environments and particularly their experiences as marginalized girls in communities racked by poverty. The recent increase in girls' participation in gangs has roots in the violence the girls in these communities suffer. Not all the girls arrested, however, are low-income girls of color. The sexual abuse of children, unlike physical abuse, knows no class or racial boundaries, and almost all the girls in the juvenile justice system share such secret victimization. After arrest, the juvenile justice system has increasingly evolved into a two-track system -- one for white girls and another for girls of color. The book highlights the consequences of the imprisonment "binge" for girls and women. This pattern has also signaled a dramatic increase in the imprisonment of males. Those imprisoned, both male and female, are disproportionately black. The author advises that if we are to respond to the challenge of girls' and women's crime, we must seek solutions that are based on the real causes of women's offenses, not on myths fostered by misinformation. There must be an understanding of how gender and race shape and eliminate choices for girls, how they injure, and how they ultimately create different futures for youths who are born female in a nation that promises equality yet all too often falls short of this dream. 331 references and a subject index


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