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Victim–Offender Conferencing: Issues of Power Imbalance for Women Juvenile Participants

Field, Rachael
June 4, 2015

Source: (2003) Paper presented at the “Juvenile Justice: From Lessons of the Past to a Road for the Future” conference held on December 1-2, 2003, in Sydney, Australia. Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology. Downloaded 11 May 2004.

Young women offenders are a minority group in the juvenile justice system and continue to be misunderstood and are often described as ‘difficult’ or ‘troublesome.’ This problem is exacerbated as a result of persistent patriarchal constructs about what behavior is appropriate for young women. There is a continuing inadequacy of programs available to young women in the juvenile justice system. Girl-specific services are needed that can support the policies of diversion. Existing literature on participation-based issues for juvenile offenders in victim-offender conferencing is considered. Bias against young women in the criminal justice system is well established. It appears that statistically there is an increase in the number of juvenile women in the criminal justice system. Conferencing is designed to bring victims and offenders together to discuss the offense and develop agreements to make amends. While the theoretical benefits of conferencing are persuasive and are supported by some empirical evidence, there remain some substantial issues and problems to be addressed, such as using the conference inappropriately or extending the stigma circle. It is argued that young women participants have special needs and issues arising out of additional gender-related power imbalances. The application of the concept of shaming and decontextualized requirement for young women to take responsibility for their misdeeds can have negative, intimidating, and disempowering consequences for young women offenders. On the basis of these considerations, the development of more thorough ethical guidelines for conference convenors relating to interventions should be designed to redress power imbalances between victims and offenders. Abstract courtesy of National Criminal Justice Reference Service,


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