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Girls in Trouble with the Law

Laurie Schaffner

Publication Year: 2006

In Girls 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.

Published by: Rutgers University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii


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pp. ix-x


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p. xi-xi

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pp. xii-xvii

The first time I got arrested I was sixteen years old. To be exact, it was my sixteenth birthday. In those days, you couldn’t go outdoors before 3:00 p.m. without getting arrested for truancy—until you were sixteen years old, the age when mandatory public education legally ended. So, to celebrate...

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Introduction: Girls Trouble the Law

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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...

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Chapter 1: New Troubles for Girls

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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...

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Chapter 2: Injury, Gender, and Trouble

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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’...

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Chapter 3: Empty Families, Sexuality, and Trouble

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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...

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Chapter 4: Gender, Violence, and Trouble

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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...

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Chapter 5: Children, Gender, and Corrections

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pp. 149-170

A group of legal advocates were in the process of developing model professional standards for the care and treatment of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (GLBTQ) youth in juvenile systems, and the message highlighted...

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Chapter 6: Conclusion: Pathways, Policies, Programs, and Politics

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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...


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pp. 203-216


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pp. 217-244


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pp. 244-257

About the Author

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E-ISBN-13: 9780813539461
E-ISBN-10: 0813539463
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813538334

Page Count: 280
Illustrations: 18
Publication Year: 2006