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Offending Girls: Rethinking Intervention Regimes (From ... And When She Was Bad? Working With Young Women in Juvenile Justice and Related Areas, P 7-13, 1996, Christine Alder and Margaret Baines, eds. -- See NCJ-165370)

NCJ Number
K Carrington
Date Published
Based on an Australian study that analyzed the processing of 1,046 delinquent girls in New South Wales, this paper discusses the vulnerability of particular girls to juvenile justice intervention, the discrepancy between commission and detection of female delinquency, and the effect of "deficit discourses" in shaping the kinds of intervention regimes used to manage individual girls.
The study found that before they were 18 years old the girls in the sample had 2,046 court appearances recorded in the New South Wales Juvenile Criminal Index. Although their offenses were almost equally divided between criminal matters and status- offense complaints, when these girls appeared before the courts for status offenses, they were much more likely to be committed to an institution than were boys. Although the girls were treated more harshly than boys as status offenders, they were treated more leniently in criminal cases. The author believes the issue in this circumstance is not so much the gender of the juvenile, although this can be important, but rather the nexus that exists between status offenses and punishment. It is clear that some girls are more vulnerable to detection for delinquency than others. This can be due to living in suburban locations that are overpoliced; being a welfare dependent in which the risk of surveillance is greater; and being a state ward, which increases the chance of detection for petty delinquency. Female delinquency is created in some measure by the juvenile justice system itself through "deficit discourses." "Deficit discourses" locate the source of pathology in a defective individual or dysfunctional family, thus providing the rationale or administrative logic for punitive juvenile justice or child welfare intervention, which works through the punishment of the child. Juvenile justice intervention should not rest on attributing pathology to cultural and ethnic differences, sexual conduct, or social and family disadvantages. Intervention should take into account the social conditions, factors, and context of individual offenders, but ways should be found to divert, prevent, and remedy, rather than compound, juveniles' initial marginalization. Two case studies are provided to illustrate the tenets of this paper. 4 references