“They’re just made up different”: Juvenile correctional staff perceptions of incarcerated boys and girls [2018]

•Juvenile correctional staff characterize incarcerated boys and girls differently.

•Boys were described as reticent to open up while girls were seen as eager to talk.

•Unlike boys, staff felt girls actively engaged with and sought attention from them.

•Girls were viewed as responding more forcefully to conflicts with staff than boys.

•Staff described boys and girls as reacting in opposite ways to conflict with peers.

Staff members in youth correctional facilities (YCFs) serve as primary adults in the lives of incarcerated youth. They are charged with promoting positive development, supporting rehabilitation, enforcing security, and holding youth accountable. YCF staff members not only control the daily lives of confined youth but also affect the incarceration experience and treatment outcomes. Consequently, they play crucial roles in implementing juvenile justice policies and are largely responsible for the youth authority’s rehabilitation efforts. However, limited research examines the perspectives of YCF staff members about incarcerated young people, and no known study has explicitly asked about their potentially different perspectives on boys and girls. Views of staff about the gendered attributes of the youth they supervise have the potential to shape the gender identities and beliefs of boys and girls in ways that reproduce gender stereotypes and norms, which may impact rehabilitation and treatment. This qualitative analyses of 58 in-depth interviews found that YCF staff in the United States characterize boys and girls in very different ways, with a focus on aspects of communication, engagement, and conflict with staff and peers. These perspectives bring important insights and implications for the rehabilitation efforts of the juvenile justice system.

Tasha Randall Galardi, Richard A. Settersten Jr.
Children and Youth Services Review, Volume 95, December 2018