Criers, Liars, and Manipulators: Probation Officers' Views of Girls

Emily Gaarder, Arizona State University
Marjorie Zatz, Arizona State University

This study examines the perceptions of girls and their families held by juvenile probation officers, psychologists, and others involved in juvenile court decision making. Through qualitative analysis of 200 probation case files of girls and in-depth interviews with juvenile probation officers in a metropolitan county of Arizona, we discuss the gendered, classed and racialized language of probation officers' descriptions of juveniles and their families, particularly mothers. We conclude that juvenile probation serves a means of socially controlling delinquent girls and their families according to partriarchal, racist, involved gendered stereotypes and focused on sexual behavior. Probation officers expressed distaste and frustration in working with girls and had little knowledge of culturally or gender-specific programming. Based on our findings, we question whether the current structure and ideology of the juvenile court can create or nurture a community-based and/or restorative approach to justice for girls.

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Updated 05/20/2006