Girls in Trouble: A Study of Female Delinquency and the Michigan Family Court
Dent, Elise Yvonne
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Female delinquents make up a small but growing number of youths adjudicated delinquent. With the increase in female delinquency, there has been increased media coverage and fascination with girl delinquents. However, female delinquency is an age-old phenomenon that is frequently misunderstood. Delinquent girls have often been the victims of violence in both their homes and their communities. This is reflected in the self-destructive nature of many of the offenses that girls commit such as prostitution, drug abuse and running away. Officials must take a therapeutic approach when working with female offenders in order to address the problems at the root of their behaviors to prevent recidivism. The 1998 formation of a family court in Michigan through the consolidation of the Circuit Court and the Juvenile Division of the Probate Court is an essential step towards applying theories of therapeutic jurisprudence, or a focus of the law's effect on emotional and psychological well being. A focus on the Ninth Circuit Court Family Division, which serves Kalamazoo County, illustrates many efforts to incorporate notions of the law as a healing agent of those involved with the court. Programs such as the Juvenile Drug Court provide help for court-involved girls while upholding the law. Such programs show a positive step in a direction towards providing those in trouble with the law with programs to help address the issue at the root of the behavior, not simply a short-term solution.