Chapter 13 - The Double Standard of Juvenile Justice

·         “double bind” of either/or choices traps women

o    Equality or difference; femininity or competence; nurture or endanger the family.

·         Importance of Gender

o    Not to be confused with biology, gender is cultural

o    Gender establishes expectations for behavior

o    Gender shapes all aspects of crime and criminal/ juvenile justice

o    Gender is important when it comes to the family, as boys and girls are brought up differently, which in turn relates to delinquency

Gender & Family

·         Adolescent girls live in a world that has not changed much despite alterations to the adult female role.

·         Modern girls, like girls in the past, are more closely watched than their brothers.

·         Much of the family disharmony is an outgrowth of the long-standing sexual double standard that tacitly encourages male sexual exploration and punishes female sexuality

Parents and Juvenile Court Referrals

·         Some parents turn to the family or juvenile court to enforce their authority.

·         For many parents, maintaining control over their children, especially girls, is extremely important.

·         One major reason for the presence of girls in juvenile courts is the insistence of their parents that they be arrested.

·         This pattern began to appear when the juvenile court was founded

Girls & the Child Saving Movement

·         Many early activities of the child savers revolved around monitoring the behavior of young girls, particularly immigrant girls, in order to prevent their “straying from the path.”

·         Little wonder the majority of girls appeared in court of such charges as “immorality” and other status offenses

·          Even today we see that girls are more likely than boys to appear on such charges (even though they are no longer called “immorality”)

Reformers - Obsession over Sex

·         Mostly upper class women worrying about the sexual activities of girls (especially lower class immigrant girls)

·         Wanted to make sure girls were “chaste” and “pure” for the young men of the nation

·         Note how many new “training schools” for girls opened in the early 1900s and what sort of “training” they received

·         To be “good wives and mothers”

·         Alice Stebbins Wells – first female police officer – Los Angeles

o    Monitored dance halls and other places frequented by young women

The Girl-Saving Movement

·         Most girls were charged with immorality or waywardness

o    “immorality” was the most frequent charge – boys almost never charged with this

·         Girls far more likely than boys to appear in court for status offenses and also to be detained and sent to a training school

o    Note how many studies have been done documenting this (covering most of the past century)

o    Also in other countries

·         “cult of domesticity” – did not reflect the reality of many women in lower socioeconomic classes who were in the labor force by necessity

·         This was a period where many young women began to work in factories and office buildings of the rapidly growing economy – and leaving home to live on their own

Juvenile Court and the Double Standard

·         The actions of the court toward girls was an example of “moral imperialism”

o    one group imposes their own definition of morality onto another group (a common method of social control)

·         Still going on today, as noted in the text when referencing some recent studies

·         Girls still being lectured about their morality


·         A new buzzword for the 1970s and 1980s

The Conservative Backlash

·         Many (e.g., directory of the National Center on Juvenile Justice) believed that status offenses were offenses against our the country’s values.

o    Girls are “seemingly overrepresented as status offenders because we have had a strong heritage of being protective toward females in this country”

·         Conservatives overcame this movement by engaging in what is called “bootstrapping”

o    Relabeling status offenders as delinquents by virtue of violating probation, etc.

1992 Reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act

·         States were required to provide gender appropriate services to girls

o    To deal, for instance, with issues of sexual abuse

·         Aimed to resolve the problem of “bootstrapping”

·         Despite such efforts, there remains evidence of the double standard

·         Girls continue to be arrested for mostly status offenses and minor assaults (domestic violence and fights at school)


Getting into the System

·         Parents most likely to be source of referral for girls’ status offenses

Girls on the Streets

·         girls overrepresented among those charged with minor or status offenses when arrests are compared to actual behavior (based upon self-report studies)

·         Concern over demeanor and sexuality still common

·         Police have increased their tendency to arrests of girls for simple assault in recent years

·         Police still more likely to refer boys to court simply because they commit the most serious offenses

Gender and Delinquency Referrals

·         1985 - 2007 - number of delinquency cases involving girls increased 101% compared to a 30% increase for boys (Table 13-2)

·         More pronounced gender differences in referrals to service providers – girls most likely to be referred

Comparing Girls and Boys in Court

·         Bias in the court less visible than in previous years

·         A lot of reclassification of female status offenders as delinquents

o    Such as a girl breaking into parents’ home

·         Girl status offenders not likely to escalate to more serious offenses

·         Probation officers treat girls more harshly

Girls under Lock and Key (see Table 13-3)

·         Gender and geography - rural juvenile courts more girls removed from home for minor offenses and generally treated more severely than are either rural males or female offenders in other settings

·         Girls more likely to be detained for technical violations and status offenses

·         Growing tendency to re-label family conflicts in which girls are involved as “violent” offenses, which impacts minority girls in particular.

·         Girls are more than four times as likely to be committed for status offenses as boys (Table 13-4)

The “New” Double Standard of Juvenile Justice

·         This involves girls of color

·         In LA courts, Latinas comprised the largest proportion of the population (45%), followed by white girls (34%), and African-American girls (23%).

o    white girls more likely to be recommended for a treatment than minorities

·         Resisting a negative label – resources is the key

·         Note the study of race and girls processing in San Francisco

·         Note also the study that found that white girls were more likely than black girls to receive out of home placement

o    Because of the belief that white girls were more likely to be in violation of “sex role expectations” and more likely to benefit from the treatment offered in out of home placements

·         Human Rights Watch report on girls in youth prisons in New York State – less than ¼ are white