Gender Issues

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Gender Responsiveness

in the

Juvenile Justice System

Abigail Comee-McCourt

Independent Study, IND 494

Professor Rankis

June 10, 2008

Contents

Summary and Introduction3

What is Gender Responsiveness?4

Why is Gender Responsive Care Important?6

How is Maine Doing?9

Suggested Online Readings12

References13

Appendix A:

Survey response rate by county14

Female caseload by respondent15

Gender Responsive Training 15

Adequacy Of Training Received16

Appendix B:

Survey questions used17

Summary and Introduction

The purpose of the survey conducted on behalf of the Juvenile Justice Advisory Group was to assess how Maine’s current practices incorporate the six key components listed below. This assessment can be used to make recommendations that enable the state to use best practices for gender responsive care in the juvenile justice system.

There are six principles that are necessary to have a successful gender responsive program, according to the National Institute of Corrections’ gender responsive strategies guidebook. These principles are, foremost, the acknowledgement that gender makes a difference. This is followed by the necessity of a safe, respectful environment; an understanding of the importance of relationships in the lives of females; provision of services to deal with substance abuse, trauma, and other issues raised by victimization; services to help girls to better their economic status; and lastly, to help girls access the services they need outside the facilities. (National Institute of Corrections [NIC], 2003, p. 76) Without these key components, any attempts at structuring a gender responsive justice system will not be successful. Examples of programs that have succeeded in applying gender responsive strategies are PACE Center for Girls, in Florida; the AMICUS Girls Restorative Program, in Minnesota; the Girl’s CIRCLE program, nationwide; and many other programs that are still in the pilot stage.

What is Gender Responsiveness?

Most often, when a juvenile enters the corrections system it is for delinquent behavior that has estranged them from their families and communities. The teens that we have in our corrections facilities don’t have much going for them, their “schools see them as troublemakers. Parents of their friends view them as bad news. Victims…are either afraid of them or angry at them.”(AMICUS, 2004 p.8) When the delinquents are female we must help them to repair the damage they have done within their communities. Girls place great value on the relationships in their lives, healthy or not. Gender responsiveness uses an understanding of this key element of female behavior to develop “programs that support and encourage girls to have goals, realistic expectations, and the specific skills needed to reach their goals.” (Girls Equitable Treatment Coalition [GET], 2003, p. 4)

Gender responsiveness is defined by Bloom and Covington as “creating an environment… that reflects an understanding of the realities of women’s lives and addresses the issues of the participants.”(as cited in NIC, 2001, p. 75) This environment includes not only the facilities the females are housed in, but also the staff assigned to them, and the availability and content of programming provided to girls.

Some of the issues that need to be addressed are the importance of relationships to girls, victimization issues and substance abuse behaviors that result from them, and acknowledgment of female offenders’ pathways into the justice system. Also, female offenders confront several problems that are specific to their gender like teenage pregnancy, single parenthood, sexual abuse, and battery. (GET, 2003, p. 4-5) In order to be able to help keep female juvenile offenders from re-offending it is...
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