Despite the increasing emphasis on gender-specific programming (Hartz & Thick, 2005; Zahn, 2006; Zahn et al., 2009), many arbitration programs either remain “gender-neutral” (Chesney-Lind & Pasko, 2004; Zahn et al., 2008) or rely on stereotypical gender roles (Goodkind & Miller, 2006; Holsinger, 2006). Furthermore, most programs for FJOs center on conceptions of white femininity due to inattention to race/ethnicity (Goodkind & Miller, 2006). The Women’s Well-Being Initiative’s ABI is directed towards the needs of FJOs, acknowledging the diversity in the background (i.e. race/ethnicity, class, and age) and experiences of offenders. Using the quantitative data obtained from Department of Juvenile Justice, we examine the underlying mechanisms behind the decisions regarding assignment to ABI and AMP, and document the racial differences in prior charges and the composition of the programs.
The majority of the ABI participants were White (58%, n=64), whereas the majority of AMP participants were Black (63%, n=46) (p<0.01). However, this association between race and assignment to either programs disappeared after controlling for most common charges, which were respectively shoplifting, possession of marijuana & alcohol, and disturbing schools among White FJOs, and simple assault, disturbing schools, shoplifting among Black FJOs. Additionally, recidivism rates were lower among FJOs who completed the ABI (14%) compared to FJOs who completed AMP (23%).
Even though ABI and AMP are not developed for offenders who commit a specific type of offense, results showed that the arbitrators’ decisions are shaped by the types of offenses that FJOs are charged with. Moreover, there is an association between certain charges and race which in turn shapes the racial differences in assignment. To promote the use of gender-specific arts-based interventions with diverse groups of FJOs, future research should examine the potential biases that guide program assignment in the juvenile justice system.