It has been recently discovered that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (trans*), queer, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth are disproportionately represented in the juvenile justice system (Holsinger & Hodge 2014; Hunt & Moodie-Mills 2012; Craziano & Wagner 2011). Hunt and Moodie-Mills (2014) also report that 60 percent of these youth are Black, Latino/a,. Further, despite the overrepresentation of LGBTQ youth in the juvenile justice system, the legal system’s response has been lackluster, at best. In 1988, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) have responded with the Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC) mandate, which was an amendment to the 1974 Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (JJDP) Act (U.S. Department of Justice OJJDP DMC Factsheet 2012). This act was intended to reduce the contact of minority youth in the juvenile justice system. Moreover, most research involving minority youth has denied the impact or intersecting identities and the oppression and lack of safe spaces for these young people to exist in society, in general, and in the juvenile justice system. Although feminist criminology has emerged and enhanced the narrow ideologies of classical criminological theory, many intersections have been left uncrossed in juvenile justice theory, research and practice. Since the inception of criminological theory, significant elements of the human identity have been overlooked as primary factors of disproportionate minority contact with the juvenile justice system. For example, Hirschi’s (1969) model of social control argues that race and ethnicity are factors that are invariant. Further, this false sense of equality and inclusion encourages exclusion and erasure of the identities of minority groups: i.e. the focus of the current research-lesbians, bisexual, transgender, and gender nonconforming black girls.
History of DMC
The DMC mandate originally intended to reduce the confinement of minority youth in the juvenile justice corrections facilities. Moreover, it required states receiving certain federal funding for juvenile justice programming to follow this mandate and its several components. In 1992, the JJDP Act “elevated the efforts” of the DMC mandate, and allocated 25 percent of the funding to state compliance. Further, the OJJDP proclaim that through the DMC mandate, they learned that minorities were overrepresented in all components of the juvenile justice system, as opposed to earlier beliefs that minorities were only disproportionately institutionalized. As a result, the mandate was amended in 2002 and renamed to Disproportionate Minority Contact for state municipalities to understand the necessity to address overrepresentation of minorities at every point of the justice system.
Further, at the inception of DMC, the OJJDP developed a model for states to emulate in their efforts to reduce minority contact. Their reduction model calls for state agencies to identify, assess, intervene, evaluate, and monitor DMC. The OJJDP claims that their efforts, while not complete, have catalyzed some institutional change. While they quote some positive changes in arrest statistics and in detention facilities, criminological scholars must approach this perceived change from a critical, intersectional lens to understand and asses the positive changes, if any, after the DMC mandate. While each state has implemented the DMC model to some extent, most states have monitored their programming, but they have failed to methodically evaluate the program’s effectiveness. Thus, in this paper, I will critically examine the effectiveness of the DMC mandate in serving all minorities-not just Black boys. This evaluation will be conducted through a comprehensive literature review, as well as a theoretical analysis of the potential origins of this deeply rooted issue.
This paper will utilize Blalock’s (1967) racial threat theory as a basis to expand upon. In essence, primary ideology of racial threat theory will be expanded to encompass and explain the matrix of oppression for all minorities. This theory asserts that competition (for jobs, economic superiority, etc.) between Black and White people in the US causes an intensified level of social control exerted on Black people. An example of racial threat theory applied to the current plight of the juvenile justice system is the disproportionate involvement of Black youth at every contact point of the system. On the other hand, Black people, in general, represent a minority of less than 15 percent of the country. Thus, the representation of Black youth in the justice system is unjustifiable through realistic, critical approaches to criminological theory.
Moreover, in this paper, some literature is reviewed that deals with Hirschi’s contrasting model of social control, which completely denies that racism, prejudice, bias, and corruption are real. These two theories of social control are purposely compared in this paper to illustrate the historic failure of the justice system to understand the “matrix of power” (Potter 2013). The next section of this paper discusses the literature and research studies conducted to understand the complexities of race, gender, sexual orientation, gender expression, social control, and the juvenile justice system.
Although little research has been conducted regarding DMC, the mandate was analyzed in Leiber et al.’s (2011) study. The purpose of their research was to evaluate the effectiveness of the DMC mandate in decreasing racial disparities in the juvenile justice system. The researchers approached this topic through Durkheim’s (1964) consensus theory and conflict (symbolic threat) view in relation to racial stereotyping. The consensus model argues that tradition, law, punishment, and treatment derive from a broad consensus of societal norms (Durkheim 1964). According to this criminological theory, racial disparities in crime are attributed to differential involvement in crime, gender, age, dysfunctional family structures and school misbehavior. (Tracy 2005). The conflict model alleges that minority youth possess feelings of fear and jealousy, which makes them pose a greater threat to society and public safety. Moreover, this studies draws from these theories to understand racial bias and stereotyping by practitioners in the juvenile justice system, particularly at intake (court referrals) and at judicial disposition. The researchers hypothesized that the race of the offender would have no influence on intake or judicial disposition before and after the DMC mandate, and that DMC would reduce decision-making outcomes.
The researchers utilized data from a county in Iowa, which was chosen by Congress in 1989 as one of five model states for the DMC mandate. The researchers reviewed about 5,700 cases ten years before and ten years after the DMC mandate, 60 percent being White offenders and 40 percent being Black offenders. They reviewed how both groups were treated in intake and during judicial disposition. Thus, the researchers found that their hypotheses, grounded in criminological theories that do not explain oppression and discrimination, were unsupported. They found that even after the DMC mandate, cases involving Black youth were referred to court more often than that of White youth, especially when Black youth derived from single-parent families. Moreover, the researchers also found that the effects of race become much more covert and indirect, but they were apparent under a critical lens. The researchers found decision-making was most impacted by race when the there is “no procedure for review;” i.e. when discretion is at its highest.
The researchers acknowledged that the data and sample were pulled from a single jurisdiction, which makes the ability to generalize based on their research questionable. Nonetheless, they urge for more research to be conducted on the effectiveness of the DMC mandate, as it has been in place for over 20 years.
Myers and Raymond (2010) studied the effect of heternormativity on the perspectives of elementary-aged girls. The researchers hypothesized that heteronormativity is not just the result of pubescent transformation; instead, it is intertwined within everyday life and interactions, even as young as five years old. Because there has been a gap in previous research (Renold 2006; Casper and Moore(2009), the authors prioritized the focus of heteronormativity and gender performance to a young population, as opposed to the middle and high school population. The authors examined how heteronormativity governs elementary girls’ gender performance and their self-image and images of their peers. The researchers gathered a focus group of 43 girls, ages five through 11 (median age 9-years-old), grades kindergarten through fifth grade. The participants were primarily white, lower middle class girls, which represented the majority of the school’s population. The girls were divided into age-appropriate groups, where discussion was moderated by a researcher, but was guided based on desirable topics of conversation. The researchers found that although the questions prepared were regarding the girls’ general interests, the conversation constantly shifted to a boy-centered discussion. Most girls bashfully and secretly desired to discuss their crushes or dating climate in their elementary classes, and some were very open about the boy-centered interests and perceptions.
Through the conversations with girls, the researchers found evidence to support their hypothesis. They found that the girls defined themselves through the lens of boys, and their heteronormative ideologies were consistent with their firm beliefs that sexual orientation should match one’s gender identity and expression. There were also consistent findings of heteronormativity being an agent of social control. The researchers found that heteronormativity was utilized as a mirror for girls to measure themselves and one another through a heterosexist lens, and through a very chivalrous, traditional ideology of what it means and looks like to be an “appropriate” girl. Finally, they found that this was policed through school policy and through home life standards. Moreover, most of the girls’ parents followed very traditional gender roles.
The researchers acknowledged the lack of racial and economic diversity in their focus group. The participants were primarily white, lower-middle class socio-economic status, and the researchers noted that the group interviews were dominated by the white participants. This lack of representation silenced the perspectives of the young, Black and Latina girls in the focus group (which were they only people of color reported in the demographic notes). The researchers did not discuss this as an opportunity for future research.
Chesney-Lind, Morash, and Irwin (2003) conducted a literature review regarding the impact of policing girls’ behavior. The researchers investigated how the policing of relational aggression between girls is utilized as a mechanism of social control. Moreover, they examined the implications of treating relational aggression as a criminal justice problem. The researchers explained that [relational] aggression can be a plethora of behaviors: eye-rolling, spreading rumors, breaking others’ confidence, criticism of other girls’ appearance and personality, sarcasm, and much more. Further, the researchers hypothesized that the relational aggression should not be handled in a punitive manner and it should not be governed under school zero tolerance and behavioral policies.
The researchers critically examined literature from the 1970s until the early 2000s. They found that most research has emphasized the necessity to prevent relational aggression between girls, because of the emotional and psychological damage they believed would be caused. Nonetheless, Chesney-Lind et al. (2007) also found that the research supporting this psychological damage is inconsistent. They found that intervening in relational aggression has adverse effects on girls. Moreover, the researchers gathered that this increases the formal social control over girlhood, femininity, and what it means to be a girl or woman.
Thus, while previous research suggested that relational aggression be prevented with gender-specific programming, Chesney-Lind et al. (2007) found this method inappropriate. Further, the researchers found that policing noncriminal behavior of girls increased their involvement in the criminal justice system, as opposed to preventing criminal behavior or juvenile girls. While juvenile girl crime rates may have increased, self-report studies suggest that violence amongst young, female offenders was decreasing (Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, U.S. Department of Justice 2012). This supports the researchers’ hypothesis that policing relational aggression will increase girls’ involvement in the criminal justice system and have adverse effects. Further, extensive research has been conducted to understand policing of girls’ noncriminal behavior. Eventually, scholars developed several theories to understand the needs of girls in the system and ways to better deal with girls in the system.
There has been much existing research on the dichotomy between the chivalry hypothesis and the evil woman hypothesis. The next section of the literature explores the many facets of these theories, as they have been tested several times. Moreover, Embry & Lyons (2012) conducted a study that looked to analyze the “evil woman hypothesis.” They hypothesized that females who committed crimes diverting furthermost from traditional gender roles would receive harsher sentences. Further, the researchers believed that women would receive more severe sentences than men for sex offenses, as this type of violent, dominant, and powerful behavior is an egregious diversion from traditional gender roles.
The researchers analyzed data collected by the National Corrections Reporting Program (NCRP) in order to examine the relationship between sentence lengths for males and females convicted and sentenced for sex offenses. The data was pulled from January 1994 through December 2004. There was little demographic information, offense type, and sentencing variable. The authors’ analysis of previous research focusing on women as sex offenders was inconsistent; most research in this article focused on women as victims. Further, the researchers did not find evidence to support their hypothesis, based on the “evil woman thesis.” Instead, based on their data sample of approximately 2,800 cases involving females and approximately 2,800 cases involved males, the researchers found that males were sentenced more harshly than females.
The researchers discussed some limitations to their study. When they controlled for offenders’ criminal history, they found that sentencing discretion was misleading and unreliable, because females’ and males’ criminal histories are gendered, based on the chivalry hypothesis.
Thus, this study found evidence to support the chivalry hypothesis, which previous research has utilized to compare the discrepancies in sentencing of male and female offenders who commit the same crimes. The study did not mention the implications of race, class or sexual orientation in relation to sex offenses and sentencing discrepancies.
Spivak et al. (2014) also dissected the relevance of the chivalry hypothesis and the evil women theory in relation to female juvenile offenders. The researchers had multiple hypotheses to test the two theories: they projected that status offenders would be primarily girls, girls’ cases would be more often referred to court, girls would have less guilty verdicts, and girls would more frequently be sentenced to custody as opposed to probation.
The researchers utilized the Oklahoma Office of Justice Affairs, where they examined approximately 3,000 cases of status offenders (controlling for race, age, prior history, type of status offense, and socio-economic status). Status offenses included runaway, truancy, ‘school behavior problems,’ ‘beyond parental control,’ and ‘in need of supervision.’ The authors found that their hypotheses were supported; however, the data was inconclusive in terms of the chivalry thesis and evil woman hypothesis. The results were inconsistent, which is parallel with most existing research testing these theories. It was apparent that in this focus group, status offenders were primarily females (approximately 57 percent).
Thus, the researchers discussed that the limitations of their study are the sample size. Because the sample was gathered just from Oklahoma, it is difficult to utilize this as a general consensus about female status offending. Also, the study controls for race, age, prior history, type of status offense, and socio-economic status. Nonetheless, it is imperative view these intersectional identities when truly understanding the methods of the juvenile justice system. Although many researchers have studied these models, there have been inconsistent results.
Hirschi’s (1969) Social Control model
While the current study utilizes Blalock’s (1967) theory on racial and minority threat, it is important to critically examine other models of social control. Further, Peguero, Popp, Latimore, Shekarkhar, and Koo (2011) critically examined Hirschi’s (1969) classical criminological theory of social control. The researchers looked to examine the validity of social control theory and school misbehavior (juvenile delinquency) in relation to race and ethnicity. The authors asserted that previous criminological theory and research has failed to address race and ethnicity as a focal point; instead, race and ethnicity have historically been a “peripheral” (Peguero et. al 2011) aspect of findings in previous research. Further, the authors hypothesized that the relationship between social control theory and school misbehavior vary by race and ethnicity.
The researchers dissected the data from Educational Longitudinal Study of 2002 (ELS:2002), which includes a national sample of 10th grade students. Each of the four elements of Hirschi’s (1969) social control theory was used: attachment, commitment, involvement, and belief. School misbehavior was operationalized as noncriminal behaviors violate school rules. The researchers found that for the overall sample, each element of social control theory is consistent with explaining school misbehavior for white students. On the other hand, for Black, Latin American, and Asian American students, a variation of two of the four elements of social control theory explained school misbehaviors. For example, Black students’ misbehavior did not correlate with their rates of self-reported attachment and involvement. The researchers assume that this is most likely due to students of color being discriminated against, and the likelihood of these students to not be connected to social conventions and normality. Thus, the historic exclusion of people of color from social normality may make them feel disconnected from generally White traditions and norms.
The researchers discussed limitations to this study. They understand that their analysis was drawn from data that represents a small age group of participants and a small date range. Also, the researchers acknowledge that, like the criminal justice system, social control theory is naturally gendered, and it especially fails to address intersectional identities. Lastly, the researchers strongly suggest that further research place race and ethnicity as a focal point, rather than an afterthought of data and criminological research.
Wordarski andMapson’s (2008) study filled some gaps of previous research that researchers have encouraged more scholars to contend (Embry & Lyons 2012). Wordarski and Mapson (2008) examined the relationship of the four elements of Hirschi’s (1969) social control theory and how it varies between Black and White female offenders. They hypothesized that there is a stronger relationship between the four elements of social control theory and crime rates of White female juvenile offenders than that of Black female juvenile offenders. The researchers used data from the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods (PHDCN), which comprehensively drew data regarding the environment of social behaviors. The PHDCN documented Chicago’s social, economic, organizational, political, and cultural structures and significant changes that occurred between 1994 and 2001. The sample of the study was Black and White female juvenile offenders, ages 12 to 15.
The researchers asked several questions that were relevant to each of the four elements of social control theory. For example, to understand the girls’ ‘involvement’ (in relation to social control theory), a question asked was “Was the subject involved in any other after-school program other than extracurricular activity” (231). Further, the term delinquency was operationalized as the commission of any illegal act by an individual under 18.
While the researchers found their hypothesis was not supported, they noted several significant implications to their study. Many of the questionnaires had missing data, as many participants were unwilling to report their criminal histories and prior involvement in any crimes. The researchers also concluded that their sample size was not diverse nor large enough to represent girls in the general juvenile population, as the sample size was 837, and they were primarily Black. Lastly, the researchers suggested that more longitudinal research be conducted in order to obtain consistent results on this matter, specifically as it pertains to race in relation to juvenile delinquency.
As most research has taken a narrow focus on determining extralegal factors in juvenile justice outcomes, Guevara et al. (2006) explored juvenile justice decision making in relation to both race and gender. Specifically, the researchers examined the effect of race on outcomes of juvenile justice and how these outcomes vary by gender. They also reviewed this in relation to the effectiveness of DMC. The researchers hypothesized that white females would receive more lenient judicial disposition than male youth of color .
The researchers collected case file data from two Midwestern counties from 1990 through 1994. The names of the counties were undisclosed, and they were referred to as County A and County B. Of a total population of approximately 200,000 people, the majority of residents were White (69 percent White, 15 percent Black, 15 percent Latino, and 1 percent Native American and Asian American). On the other hand, County B had a smaller population, and it was much less racially diverse (92 percent White, 3 percent Black, 2 percent Latino, 1 percent Native American, and 2 percent Asian American). The researchers randomly chose approximately 1,300 case files for County A and approximately 1,047 case files for County B. Further, the sample was primarily minorities, because out of a total 15,000 cases for County A and a total 6,000 cases for County B, the cases referred to court were primarily minorities.
Thus, the researchers did not find evidence to support their hypothesis. The researchers emphasized the necessity to examine race, gender, and the juvenile justice system-particularly decision making-from an intersectional approach, rather than a narrow lens. This was noted several times throughout the study. A major implication to the study was that the categories of race were divided based on status of White and non-White. These labels devalue the existence of people of color, and it places all people of color in a single category, as opposed to by race and ethnicity.
In order to truly dissect the impact of the juvenile justice system on queer, black girls, it is important to look at all components of the justice system. Goodkind and Miller (2006) examined a corrections facility and their gender-specific treatment methods after the 1992 federal mandate for gender-specific services for girls in the juvenile justice system. The researchers wanted to understand the (positive and negative) effects of an art therapy treatment program, designed specifically for girls in a corrections facility, because the art therapy program was based on gender stereotypes about girls. The authors evaluated the program and found that while the art therapy program has positive effects, the inmates (participants) also understand that it is very gender-stereotypical, and it enforces gender norms as a method of controlling young girls. The researchers used the work of Foucault to understand how gender-specific treatment can be utilized to control the behavior and “appropriateness” of young girls.
The authors did not explicitly make any predictions regarding the art therapy program, in regards to the effects it had on the female inmates; they wanted to study both the positive and negative effects and the perceptions of the female inmates and the staff members. The researchers conducted five focus groups of three to six female inmates. Of the 21 participants, 12 were Black, 7 were White, 1 was biracial, and 1 was Asian American. Women of color accounted for about 60 percent of the participants, and this was representative to the population of the entire institution. They also interviewed 14 administrative staff members-four were people of color, and 9 were women. Most of the participants identified very positive aspects of the art therapy program; however, they felt troubled by the fact that only females participated in the therapy program. The participants sensed that the therapy program was gender-specific, because of the notion that they are more “needy” or more “traumatized” than their male counterparts. It is important to note that the male inmates had access to the art studio, but they did not have to participate in the program with the art therapist.
The conversations were primarily about how the female inmates are expected to act “appropriately,” and any deviation from appropriateness resulted in indirect or direct punishment. The inmates were expected to create art pertaining to gendered subjects: relationships, self-esteem, etc. Some inmates expressed their frustrations with the expectations of feminine appropriateness, particularly when as it pertains to creating art. The women expressed their concern for the therapy program and the institution, in general, polices feminine “appropriateness” as a way to control the girls.
The researchers concluded that it is important to question the positive effects of the art therapy program. It must be understood that gender-specific services in the juvenile justice system can “widen the net of social control,” as an art therapy program can attempt to make girls conform to society’s “gendered expectations of them.”
Girls’ sexuality has been a taboo topic in the juvenile justice system. Practitioners have historically failed to address sexuality and sexual orientation, and they have contributed to damaging assumptions and policing of “inappropriate” behavior of girls. Pasko (2010) conducted a historical analysis of juvenile justice policing of girls sexual behavior. This was an analysis of over a century of the courts and corrections systems, and the author found the ideology of practitioners has not changed much; nonetheless, the policing has become more indirect and covert through policies and the policing of “inappropriate behavior.” Pasko also wanted to investigate how the juvenile justice system has dealt with girls’ sexual orientation, specifically lesbian, bisexual, and queer girls.
In addition to the historical analysis, the researcher conducted interviews with juvenile justice professionals: current and former probation officers, and correctional facility administrators (counselors, therapists, and directors of residential facilities). The researcher included that all but five interviewees were female, and all but 13 were White. These practitioners had been in their position from four to 20 years, and they were from seven different (short-term and long-term) facilities. The interviewer noted that a few of the interviewers felt uncomfortable talking about sexuality and sexual orientation in their places of work; therefore, they arranged to meet at locations other than their offices.
The author included dozens of quotes from the interviewees, most of which portrayed signs of policing girls’ “appropriateness” and sexual behavior through institutional policies, psychiatric treatment, and their own personal ideologies on girls’ sexuality. The primary concern of the interviewees were girls’ promiscuity and pregnancy inside and outside of the institutions, and the notion that lesbian behavior was temporary or the result of trauma, and methods of feeling power over others. It is also important to note that most of the girls who were in the institutions had not committed serious offenses, but that had violated conditions of probations, which were often related to sexual behavior-behavior that was not in line with traditional gender roles. Thus, the researcher found that the interviewees were mostly uncomfortable and unknowledgeable about sexual orientation and gender identity issues. To illustrate the climate of the institutions, the author included the following quote from an interviewee: “They are gay on the inside and straight when they get out. I just had a girl who was, ‘Oh, I am in love with [girl].’ And I said, ‘Yeah right, back to your boyfriend you go when you get out. I am sure of it.’ This research illustrated the problematic nature of juvenile facilities for queer girls, especially those expressing non-binary genders.
Crenshaw et. al (2015) found that most existing research on youth in the juvenile justice system excludes girls from analyses, assuming that girls are not as at-risk as boys are. The researchers also found that research focusing on race excluded gender (Guevera et al. 2006). Furthermore, the authors developed a report to draw attention to the misunderstood and misrepresented issues of Black girls and other girls of color in the juvenile justice system and the public school system. The report gathers data regarding the effect of school discipline, zero-tolerance (used interchangeably with “push-out”) policies, and the almost inescapable pathways to incarceration (school-to-prison pipeline), poverty, and low-wage work. The researchers conducted interviews with high school girls of color from Boston and New York City public schools. While the report includes statistical analysis, it also provides insightful, first person dialogue from the interviews. The premise of this report was to provide a basis of discussion and increase awareness of “gendered consequences” of discipline tactics in schools that increasingly marginalize girls of color-primarily Black girls.
While the current study cannot address all of the researchers’ findings, it is imperative to note that all of the issues found in the juvenile justice system as it pertains to Black girls need to be addressed in future research to develop intervention and best practices. Nonetheless, the findings most relevant to the current research are as follows: the authors found that girls felt extremely uncomfortable, unsafe, and discouraged in the school environment. They understood the devaluing effects of push-out policies, as they argued that administrators and teachers prioritized discipline over education. The researchers gathered that traditional gender roles were enforced, as girls were disciplined for behavior deemed as misconduct (that boys were not disciplined for). The authors also note that the school, in general had extreme security measures, such as police presence, metal detectors, etc., which many girls expressed how uncomfortable this made them, discouraging them from attending school.
The authors attributed some limitations to their research to the sample size. Most importantly, the researchers noted that existing data and statistics are difficult to interpret, because of the misrepresentation of race in many databases. Thus, the authors encouraged uniformity in data reporting, because of the lack of availability of consistent measures.
Holsinger and Hodge (2014) explored the climate of juvenile corrections facilities for incarcerated lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender girls. The authors wanted to understand the experiences LGBT girls, because of the disproportionate amount of this population incarcerated. The researchers critically examined the challenges facing the girls and the staff members, and they provide recommendations to better serve LGBT-identified girls in the correctional facilities.
To investigate the needs of LGBT girls, the authors conducted interviews with inmates and staff members. The authors were able to hear the perspectives of three LGB girls in residential facilities, and 21 staff members of these facilities. The results of these interviews show this particular facility illustrates the necessity of LGBT-affirming and protective policies, staff training, and implementation is imperative in order to create safe spaces for this overrepresented population in correctional facilities. The inmates reported that the facilities were uncomfortable for LGBT-identified girls. Moreover, the interviews with staff members portray the lack of knowledge and the dangerous marginalization and implicit discrimination and poor treatment of LGBT-girls. The facility also policed “appropriate” behavior, enforcing traditional gender norms, as well as a poor understanding and acknowledgement of LGBT identities, especially bisexual, transgender, and gender nonconforming youth.
The results of this study are telling and troubling, and illuminate the lack of space for existence of LGBT-identified girls in the justice system. Most of the staff members explained that dealing with LGBT girls in their facilities made their jobs more difficult. The researchers also noted that while there had been some attempted LGBT training done for staff members, the facility needs implementation. The results of this study are also indicative of the majority of findings throughout the literature analysis, which will be elaborated in the discussion of the major findings in the forthcoming sections of this paper.
There has been exhaustive research conducted to understand, address, and increase awareness on minority populations in the juvenile justice system. After analyzing the literature, it was concluded that future research must focus on the marginalization of queer black girls as a group of people and how the layers of their identities interact, resulting in intensified oppression and trauma upon entering the juvenile justice system. The major findings were as follows: a) we have little knowledge on the perceptions of youth directly affected, but much knowledge on the lack of understanding of juvenile justice professionals and practitioners, b) most research has a diminishing, narrowed focus on one or two identities, and fail to convincingly address what happens when all of these identities collide in the margins of justice, c) most focus groups conducted reported a lack of diversity in their participants, as one social group was almost always overrepresented, d) the common theme of research on heterosexual and LGTQ girls discusses the enforcing of “appropriateness” and noncriminal, sexual and sexual orientation and gender identity-expressive behavior, and finally, e) the lack of a safe space for queer black girls to exist at every point of juvenile justice involvement.
Existing research has portrayed the power of first-person dialogue through one-on-one and group interviewing. This presentation of data has provided unparalleled insight into the perspectives of the participants in a research study, especially in the social science studying the human experience. While this approach has been utilized in the reviewed literature, most of the focus groups were to understand how equipped juvenile justice practitioners are to respond and address minority issues in corrections. While these interviews were very telling of the climate of current institutions, more youth perspective may appropriately address the issues the youth face. Nevertheless, because of staff testimonials, critical scholars can infer that the type of work that needs to be done to create safe spaces for minority youth.
After reviewing existing research on the effectiveness of DMC and through the analysis of the OJJDP’s data reporting techniques, it is clear that the DMC efforts were intended to address the issue of Black, Latino, Asian, and Native American boys’ disproportionate confinement. Moreover, these efforts failed to include other “minority” groups, such as LGBTQ, disabled, mentally ill, and poor youth, as well as a major population in the US: girls. The lack of focus on girls in the juvenile justice system has led to a misunderstanding in best practices in dealing with offending girls. As some research has tested the effectiveness of the DMC mandate, as well as the OJJDP’s annual reviews of the decades-old program, implicitly excluding girls and other minority groups from the focus of these reviews illustrates the lack of understanding of disproportionate minority contact and responding to the needs of these populations upon intake into juvenile delinquency prevention programs.
More current literature, specifically as it pertains to black girls (a general representation of the focus of the current study), it is apparent that DMC has failed to include queer, black girls in its efforts, because of the reported increase in get-tough policies that have directly affected outcomes for queer, black girls.
Revisiting Minority Threat Theory
Minority threat theory is so important in discussing the findings of this literature. As Blalock (1967) identifies, racial threat theory manifests in the form of overpolicing urban communities of color and mass incarceration. In the same manner, the complete erasure and generalization of the outcomes and experiences of queer black girls exhibits minority threat theory. Much of the literature involving girls’ sexuality and gender expression focuses on the “appropriateness” of girls’ behavior and the policing of such. In addition, the policing of appropriateness manifests as follows: existing research has found that girls most often enter the system through status offending, conveying the policing of girls’ behavior. Data on girls is often generalized to encompass the experiences of all girls; nonetheless, it would be a significant area of study to truly understand how queer, black girls are affected.
Conclusion: Call for intersectional thinking
Potter (2013) cites several intersectional, anti-essentialist, critical feminist criminologists and legal scholars in her article that fervently calls for critical criminologists to dig deeper into the statistical findings to understand the complexities of the human identities. In one section, Potter explains that plague of essentialism by feminist scholars throughout multiple disciplines. She asserts that “there is not a singular, shared experience among all women” (307). She then quotes the declaration of Wing (2003): “women of color are not merely White women plus color…or men of color plus gender. Instead, these identities must be multiplied together to create a holistic One when analyzing the nature of the discrimination against them” (307).
For decades, feminist criminologists have called for the study of intersectionality in criminological theory and practice (Potter 2013; Crenshaw 1989, 1991, 2015); nevertheless, as previously mentioned, this is not being done. Much data analysis has had a narrow focus, which Crenshaw (2015) dissects in her report, Black Girls Matter: Pushed Out, Overpoliced, and Underprotected. Crenshaw alleges that research on race excludes gender, and research on gender excludes race. Moreover, many data analyses have failed to focus on the multi-dimensional human identity and have, instead misrepresented and misinterpreted the needs of queer, black girls in a system that erases their interacting identities.
It is imperative that future research, policy, and practice take on an intersectional approach in order to truly reduce disproportionate minority contact. Otherwise, the oppression applied at the intersections will continue to intensify in the form of violence, brutality, mass incarceration, and erasure. The efforts to include all minority populations may not only contribute to the reduction of the overrepresentation of queer, black youth in the justice system, but it may also create safe spaces for them to decrease the double trauma enhanced by the justice system.
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