Young Women and Youth Justice
By Gilly Sharpe
Willan – 2011 – 210 pages
At the dawn of the twenty-first century, panic about girls’ offending in Britain reached fever pitch. No longer sugar and spice, a ‘new breed’ of girl, the hedonistic, violent, binge-drinking ‘ladette’, was reported to have emerged. At the same time, the number of young women entering the youth justice system, including youth custody, increased dramatically.
Offending Girls challenges simplistic and demonising popular representations of 'bad' girls and examines what exactly is new about the ‘new’ offending girl. In the light of enormous social and cultural changes affecting girls’ lives, and expectations of them, since previous British research in this area, the book investigates whether popular stereotypes problematising female youthful behaviour resonate with the accounts of criminalised young women themselves, and to what extent they have infiltrated professional youth justice discourse.
Through the lens of original detailed qualitative research in two Youth Offending Teams and a Secure Training Centre – the first study of its kind since the 'modernisation' of the youth justice system over a decade ago – Offending Girls questions whether the ‘new’ youth justice system is delivering justice for girls and young women. It also contends that the panic about an ‘unprecedented crime wave’ amongst girls is not supported by robust evidence, but that the interventionist thrust which characterises contemporary youth justice has had a particularly pernicious impact on girls.
It will be key reading for students and academics working in the areas of criminology, criminal and youth justice, education, gender studies, youth studies, social work, sociology and social policy, as well as youth and criminal justice practitioners and policy-makers.
‘At last an intelligent, up to date and comprehensive exposure of the myths surrounding the ‘new offending girl’ and their impact on youth justice practice.
Offending Girls: Young Women and Youth Justice is essential reading for all those who are prepared to make the effort to look beyond the headlines of the ‘ladettes’ and the ‘violent girl gangs’ who are now ‘worse than the boys’, Through extensive original research with girls and practitioners, Sharpe uncovers the realities of ‘growing up good’ in the 21st century.’
– John Muncie, Professor of Criminology, The Open University
'This book offers a fascinating insight into the lives of girls who have offended and provides an edgy alternative to the usual accounts of female crime that all too frequently ignore the voices of the women themselves. The reader is provided with a background to the offending behaviour of these women and the author attempts to offer some explanation for their offending rather than the relying on the usual account which explains girls’ criminal behaviour by likening them to boys. In this way, the book offers these women some agency and allows them to take responsibility for their actions instead of repeatedly classifying criminal women as victims of crime themselves or as helpless individuals that are not aware of the actions they are committing. This academic analysis of the lives of criminal young women is an important contribution to the growing body of research focused on women and their propensity to engage in offending behaviour and could help criminal justice agencies to look at the way they manage these women. Specifically it could inform their decision-making processes based on real life histories of offending women rather than relying on anecdotal and often androcentric work. The text offers useful insights into working with these girls in the 21st century to those who work or study in the criminal justice field, and indeed is relevant for anyone who is interested in the place of young women in the criminal system.'
-Katy Page, University of Leicester and London Probation Trust, in Probation Journal vol 59 no 4
1. New Offending Girls? 2. Historical Perspectives on Offending Girls 3. The Construction of a Girlhood Crime Wave: Recent Trends in Young Women's Lawbreaking and Criminalisation 4. Reseraching New Offending Girls 5. Pathways into Crime and Criminalisation 6. Accounting for Trouble: The Girls' Perspectives 7. The Trouble with Girls Today: Professional Perspectives on Young Women's Offending 8. Youth Justice for Girls in the Twenty-First Century 9. Conclusions and Recommendations
Gilly Sharpe is Lecturer in Criminology at the University of Sheffield. She is currently engaged in research on desistance from crime, focusing particularly on women (ex)offenders. Prior to her academic career, she spent several years working as a practitioner in youth justice and related fields.