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Girls in Trouble with the Law

Girls in Trouble with the Law

Laurie Schaffner
Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    Girls in Trouble with the Law
    Book Description:

    InGirls in Trouble with the Law, sociologist Laurie Schaffner takes us inside juvenile detention centers and explores the worlds of the young women incarcerated within. Across the nation, girls of color are disproportionately represented in detention facilities, and many report having experienced physical harm and sexual assaults. For girls, the meaning of these and other factors such as the violence they experience remain undertheorized and below the radar of mainstream sociolegal scholarship. When gender is considered as an analytic category, Schaffner shows how gender is often seen through an outmoded lens.Offering a critical assessment of what she describes as a gender-insensitive juvenile legal system, Schaffner makes a compelling argument that current policies do not go far enough to empower disadvantaged girls so that communities can assist them in overcoming the social limitations and gender, sexual, and racial/ethnic discrimination that continue to plague young women growing up in contemporary United States.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-3946-1
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xx)
  6. Introduction: Girls Trouble the Law
    (pp. 1-8)

    Popular moral panics often focus on girls’ and women’s behavior. In the corporate news media and Hollywood films, images of girls and women in crises, such as the unwed pregnant teenager, the welfare cheat, the uncaring, crack-addicted mother, the teen girl in need of an abortion, and the abducted innocent girl child, stimulate civic discourse and outrage. The irony is that most academic studies (as well as policy development and program funding) focus on the situations and experiences of boys and men. In general, sociology is the study of men’s troubles.¹ Most books about juvenile law and delinquency (textbooks, ethnographies,...

  7. 1 New Troubles for Girls
    (pp. 9-56)

    Two police cars arrived at the corner in a poorly lit neighborhood almost simultaneously.¹ Cutting the sirens but leaving on flashing blue and red lights, both officers pointed their bright headlights at the group of girls embroiled in a fight. It was 2:15 a.m. on a Friday night in 1999. Officer Robinson, the young African American woman I was riding with, jumped out of the car and sprinted toward the melee. Several young women had already started scattering in all directions. Springing out of the other police car—an unmarked Chevy—two young men, one white and one Latino, immediately...

  8. 2 Injury, Gender, and Trouble
    (pp. 57-78)

    Mylen Cruz was Filipina American, sixteen years old, and in detention for stabbing a boy at her school. “I was in the office at my school, and this boy come up to me jus’ to fuck with me. He was all, ‘I’ma get me some of this shit, man.’ He touched my butt! He thought we gonna be kickin’ it or some shit! We got into a violent fight. I did a violent act. I don’t know. I was mad. I couldn’t deal with my anger; I couldn’t hold it. I’m not a killer, but I would be able to...

  9. 3 Empty Families, Sexuality, and Trouble
    (pp. 79-116)

    The matron buzzed Portia Barlow through the locked gate, and the thin African American girl walked slowly toward me, looking around curiously as she dawdled along the dark, cement hall. “What I’m doing is not beneath me!” she protested immediately—before I had said a word to her about commercial sex work. Portia’s short hair stuck out wildly in all directions, a little bit of it captured in the back with a dirty rubber band. Her patchy skin (“ashy,” as she described it), was badly in need of her beauty and hygiene products. The California Penal Code she was detained...

  10. 4 Gender, Violence, and Trouble
    (pp. 117-148)

    Seventeen-year-old Claudia Sereno had such a beguiling smile that whenever she arrived back in detention, all the counselors would hug her and laugh. When she wasn’t in a rage, she was alert, funny, and smart. Claudia entered the courtroom in an orange sweatshirt (indicating that she was considered a violent offender); her bright eyes darted around the rows of seats behind the table where her public defender waited. Claudia was hoping to see someone she knew in the spectator area.

    Juvenile courts were designed to be less adversarial than adult court. For example, juvenile court is held without a jury....

  11. 5 Children, Gender, and Corrections
    (pp. 149-170)

    Sitting in my office in early 2004, I received an email forwarded to me by a colleague; it apparently was circulating as a plea on behalf of a detained youth:

    What if I told you that there is a little boy (age 15) who was born female and has acted and been treated as a little boy and lived and gone to school as a little boy since the age of three? Further, what if I told you that HE was caught up in the juvenile justice system and was being warehoused in the female section of the Juvenile Detention...

  12. 6 Conclusion: Pathways, Policies, Programs, and Politics
    (pp. 171-202)

    I conclude this study about contemporary girls in trouble by describing two moments of conflict among girls that took place in completely different settings. Recounting these events provides a foundation for seeing how expressions of anger and violence are mediated by location, socioeconomic status, and the quality of adult intervention. Contextual comparisons allow us to observe that girls’ troubles are not as much about violence, sexuality, or gender as they are about the ways that those forces are constituted for them in their lives. After presenting and discussing both scenes, I share recommendations made by the young women in this...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 203-216)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 217-242)
  15. Index
    (pp. 243-258)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 259-260)