This article argues that existing delinquency theories are fundamentally inadequate to the task of explaining female delinquency and official reactions to girls' deviance. To establish this, the article first reviews the degree of the androcentric bias in the major theories of delinquent behavior. Then the need for a feminist model of female delinquency is explored by reviewing the available evidence on girls' offending. This review shows that the extensive focus on disadvantaged males in public settings has meant that girls' victimization and the relationship between that experience and girls' crime has been systematically ignored. Also missed has been the central role played by the juvenile justice system in the sexualization of female delinquency and the criminalization of girls' survival strategies. Finally, it will be suggested that the official actions of the juvenile justice system should be understood as major forces in women's oppression as they have historically served to reinforce the obedience of all young women to the demands of patriarchal authority no matter how abusive and arbitrary.
Progressive feminists have always approached the issue of mandatory arrest in incidents of domestic assault with ambivalence.On the one hand, the criminalization of sexual assault and domestic violence was in one sense a huge symbolic victory for feminist activists and scholars alike. After centuries of ignoring the private victimizations of women, police and courts were called to account by those who founded rape crisis centers and shelters for battered women and those whose pathbreaking research laid the foundation for major policy and legal changes in the area of violence against women (see Schecter, 1982).On the other hand, the insistence that violence against women be handled as a criminal matter threw victim advocates into an uneasy alliance with police and prosecutors-professions that feminists had long distrusted and with good reason (see Buzawa and Buzawa, 1990; Heidensohn, 1992;Martin, 1980). The often challenging relationship between victim advocates (many but not all feminists) and the police received a surprising boost with the appearance in the mid-eighties of what appeared to be to be overwhelming evidence that arrest decreased violence against women (Sherman and Berk, 1984); arrest seemed to reduce subsequent wife battery by 50% over other alternatives. That early research seemed to silence many of those who doubted the wisdom of a law enforcement-centered approach to the problem of domestic violence.Arrest as a response to domestic violence receives in this very careful review of the evidence a far more qualified endorsement; in Maxwell et al.'s own words, "consistent but modest reductions in subsequent offenses targeting the victims that is attributable to arresting the suspect" (p. 2).The study also turned up some disturbing evidence of racial bias. Most notably, if only official arrest records are consulted, it would appear that men of color are more likely to recidivate, whereas if victim interviews are used, white suspects were more likely to recidivate. The authors attribute this conundrum to both greater willingness of African-American women to call the police and the greater willingness of the police to arrest in cases of domestic violence involving African-Americans. The authors cite a VOLUME 2 NUMBER 1 2002 PP 81-90
T his article begins with a consideration of the interconnected troubles and needs that research has documented for girls who become enmeshed in the juvenile justice system. Special attention is given to findings from research that gives girls in the system some 'voice' in explaining what services and programs they need and want. After offering some explanation of the gap in programs and services for girls, the article notes the failure of evaluation results to shed light on effective program models, and thus the importance of available documentation on programs as a guide for developing effective, gender responsive programs for girls. Available documentation is analysed, with particular attention to the fit of girls' assessed and expressed needs to the descriptive material on programs.Female delinquents, once dubbed the 'forgotten few' in juvenile justice (Bergsmann, 1989), are now entering that system in increasing numbers. Girls accounted for nearly a third (30.5%) of juvenile arrests in 2004 (FBI, 2005, p. 285). Two decades earlier, girls accounted for only about one fifth of juvenile arrests (Sarri, 1987, p. 181). This represents a 42.5% increase in girls' share of juvenile arrests.Parallel increases have also being seen in girls' referrals to the nation's juvenile courts. Between 1985 and 2002, the number of girls coming into the US juvenile courts increased by 92%, compared to a 29% increase for males (Snyder & Sickmund, 2006). The increase is partly a function of girls being arrested and referred to court for nontraditional offences. 'For females, the largest 1985-2002 increase was in person offence cases (202%)'. Referrals of girls for 'simple assault' increased by 238%, and female referrals for 'other person offences' increased by 322% (the comparable male increases were 152% and 111%) (Snyder & Sickmund, 2006, p. 160). Gendered shifts were also seen for drug offences (171% among girls versus a 156% increase in boys' referrals) and property crimes; the male property caseload decreased 19% and the female property caseload increased 27%. Given
This study presents a multiyear empirical examination of gender bias in the handling of juvenile court cases in Hawaii. Based on prior qualitative and quantitative data, it is hypothesized that once female juvenile offenders are found delinquent, they will be sanctioned more severely than male offenders by the juvenile court, holding other factors constant. Results from a series of analyses indicate significant differences between male and female juvenile justice outcomes, particularly for youth of color. Female offenders are more likely than male offenders to be handled informally at the early stages of the system, but the court's benevolence declines as girls move into the disposition stage. The implications of these findings for resolving inconsistencies in prior research are discussed. Also considered are policy implications with regard to congressional initiatives to de-emphasize the deinstitutionalization of status offenses and reduce concerns about minority overrepresentation in the juvenile justice system.
Growing evidence regarding the gender-specific nature of risk/needs factors in girls coming to the attention of the juvenile court is contrasted with the limited availability of gender-sensitive assessment instruments designed to measure risk/needs. In the present study, data are gathered from a sample of male and female youth assessed at a juvenile court detention facility. As hypothesized, analyses revealed significantly higher scores for males on prior offenses and significantly higher scores for females on family/parenting, mental health, traumatic events, and health-related risks. Unexpectedly, females also scored significantly higher than males in domains associated with psychopathy, accountability, and peer relationships. Female and male youth also differed in type of offense that brought them to the attention of the detention facility. In turn, type of offense was a predictor of risk/needs levels in the family/parenting domain, underscoring the particularly salient role family factors play in the lives of court-involved youth.
Criticism of the juvenile court's jurisdiction over the status offender consistently neglects one important aspect of the issue. As a product of the court's history of extralegal paternalism, status offenses have involved the system in the maintenance of traditional family norms, which require greater obedience and chastity from females than from males. The enforcement of status offenses has created a de facto double standard of juvenile justice in America. Like "good parents," police and court personnel tend to select for punishment girls whose behavior threatens parental authority and boys whose behavior is beyond that which can be excused as "boys will be boys." This pattern explains both the overrepresentation of girls charged with status offenses in court popula tions and the relatively harsh official response to this behavior. Evidence is presented to show that, at every level in the system, girls charged with status offenses are treated more harshly than girls charged with crimes. Further, the noncriminal activity of girls is frequently seen as requiring more drastic intervention than the criminal behavior of boys.
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