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Girls' Delinquency and the Justice Implications of Intake Workers' Perspectives

NCJ Number
Women & Criminal Justice Volume: 13 Issue: 2/3 Dated: 2002 Pages: 51-77
Lisa Bond-Maupin; James R. Maupin; Amy Leisenring
Date Published
27 pages
This research examined the legal processing of girls in the context of intake workers' perceptions of girls' delinquency in a large southwestern county in which Mexican-Americans were the numerical majority.
The research built on two areas of prior research on girls: their offenses and the attitudes of juvenile justice officials toward work with girls; this was integrated with the decisions of officials with their attitudes toward girls. The analysis built on prior research by exploring intake workers' explanations for girls' delinquency and the ways in which race and culture informed their understanding of girls' experiences in a jurisdiction in which Hispanic girls were in the majority. A total of 616 girls were referred to the juvenile probation and parole officer (JPPO) in 1997. Seventy-five percent of the girls were Hispanic. With the exception of a low number of referrals for drugs, girls were referred for those offenses most common among girls nationally: shoplifting, status offenses, and simple assaults. Regardless of the framing of questions in interviews with JPPOs, respondents had a difficult time focusing on girls' experiences; for example, when asked, "In general, what is it like to work with girls," most JPPOs responded by providing a comparison to boys. In all cases, girls were described as having negative characteristics that boys do not have; however, there was disagreement about which gender was easier to manage. The major themes of the negative attitudes about girls pertained to their attitudes and the perception that girls were manipulative and uncooperative, with manipulativeness often viewed as related to their sexuality. JPPOs identified white girls as privileged and linked this privilege to conflict with parents. Latinos were described as experiencing the most pressure toward traditional gender roles and a sex-based double standard. Intake officials in the study jurisdiction apparently had an understanding of the influences of gender, race/ethnicity, and class in girls' lives that was more complex than that indicated in prior literature. They understood a need for gender-specific services and work with girls and their families in a jurisdiction in which few were provided. Intake workers were given few referral options for girls. Detention was used inappropriately in most detained girls' cases, given that their offenses did not require it. 3 tables and 42 references