Date of Conferral
Gregory P. Hickman
Each year, hundreds of thousands of youth move through juvenile justice systems in the United States, and the number of female offenders is increasing. At the probation level, there appears to be a lack of services, such as mentoring, mental health services, sex education, and counseling, to meet the gender-specific needs of female juvenile delinquents in rural settings. The purpose of this study was to discover county probation officers' perceptions of girls' needs and the officers' decision-making processes related to recommending services. This case study was based on feminist criminology theory. The research questions sought to learn how probation officers working with female juvenile offenders in a rural county describe their roles in the supervision process and how they decide which gender-specific services are most appropriate. Three probation officers in a rural jurisdiction in a northeastern state were interviewed, and the responses were coded and analyzed using thematic content analysis. Findings indicated that the officers neither viewed girls differently nor felt the need to treat the genders differently, even though their responses revealed that female youth are more often subject to truancy, promiscuity, and running away than male youth. The primary recommendation resulting from the study is to implement gender-responsive programs to meet the diverse needs of delinquent girls. Such programs would offer female youth more guidance and rehabilitation, potentially reducing future offending. This study has implications for positive social change in informing those serving in the youth criminal justice field, and families involved in the system, about the gap in understanding and implementing gender-specific strategies to meet the needs of rural female youth in conflict with the law.