UIC RESEARCHERS STUDY YOUNG FEMALE OFFENDERS
The Center for Research in Law and Justice at the University of Illinois at Chicago has been awarded a grant from Cook County to evaluate the GIRLS LINK Collaborative, a program targeting young women in the county's juvenile justice system.
The one-year, $149,755 grant funds research that will contribute to the general body of knowledge regarding gender-responsive services and lead to more informed funding and policy-making processes.
"Most research on delinquency, historically and currently, is based on samples of young men and tends to focus on guys, guns and gangs," said Laurie Schaffner, principal investigator and UIC professor of criminal justice and sociology. "In order to address the tendency to ignore or minimize the female experience in the juvenile justice system, the center will evaluate the GIRLS LINK Collaborative."
The Cook County Bureau of Public Safety established the GIRLS LINK Collaborative in response to gender-specific challenges faced by disadvantaged girls and young women who are already in juvenile corrections.
For a number of reasons, the effectiveness of many programs designed to address gender-specific issues in the juvenile justice systems has not been clearly established, said Schaffner, a noted national researcher of adolescents in trouble with the law. Her goal is to evaluate the progress of the work of the GIRLS LINK Collaborative, provide a profile of Cook County-adjudicated female minors and map the pathway of female juvenile offenders through the Juvenile Court. "We will identify adult decision makers in the juvenile probation system and youths aged 13 to 17 who have had contact with the Juvenile Court," said Schaffner.
"We will also compile a sample of life course histories of adjudicated youth who participate in this research to discover a profile of the contemporary Cook County juvenile female offender." According to Schaffner, very little data exist about the perceptions of young women, their experiences in juvenile corrections and their ideas about what they need in order to decrease law-breaking choices.
"The spirit of this research project reflects a caring, proactive stance on behalf of young people, including inviting them to enroll in research where their voices are heard," said Schaffner. "We are specifically concerned with ensuring that young women involved in the juvenile justice system are given gender- specific and culturally responsive services that truly meet their needs."
"The Cook County Juvenile Court and UIC share a commitment to being a positive force in the lives of young people adjudicated through the juvenile probations system," said James "Chip" Coldren Jr., co-investigator and director of the center. "This research will provide valuable clues to finding pathways out of delinquent decision making for young women."
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