Restorative Justice Experiences of Juvenile Female Offenders : School, Community, and Home
Davis, Kimberly Lee
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Problem: The number of delinquent female youth across the country is on the rise (U.S. Department of Justice, 2007). These young women present unique challenges for their schools, communities, and homes. A Midwest suburb created a diversion program, a Youth Justice Initiative, to address the entire family system of the youth who were committing crimes in their city. There was a dearth of research surrounding the experiences of the young women and the implications for educational programming, specific interventions, and community connections to the school setting. Procedures: The primary purpose of this study was to explore the experiences of the female participants from 2006-2008 and to apply those findings to my school setting. Letters were sent to all 23 past participants to inform them of my study. Six young women agreed to be interviewed, two parent focus groups were held with nine parent participants, and six additional adult interviews were completed with people who were affiliated with the program in different ways. All tapes were transcribed by a business college student. Each of the 14 interviews was coded and separated into three different documents: girls, focus groups, and other adults. Next, the three subsets were combined into one document. After the second round of coding and member checking, six descriptive themes emerged. Findings: The six findings indicated theft was the main offense of the females. Second, these young women committed delinquent acts, but experienced cognitive dissonance about their behavior. Next, negative peers, negative boyfriends, and fathers had powerful influence on the young women in the program. Fourth, trusting relationships and the presence of social capital were at the heart of the success rate of the restorative programming. Fifth, the circle process and the utilization of a monitor were the most impactful interventions for positive change. Last, shame was lessened and was re-integrative in nature. Conclusions: The program is shown to be effective for these young women, and their families. The Youth Justice Initiative program prevents many young women from being adjudicated. This research study reinforced the necessity of the school to partner with the families, outside agencies, and the community to support young people. Recommendations: There were many program recommendations and ways the school could replicate the effective parts of this program to better serve delinquent females. The referral process itself should be reevaluated. It would benefit the community to examine the services that are provided and to make sure they are utilized by those who are most in need.