KOKOMO, Ind. — An Indiana University Kokomo faculty member is part of a group studying girls, to help researchers and service providers understand why they are incarcerated and identify interventions to break the cycle.
“Our goal is to gain an academic and practical understanding of the issues these girls face, so solutions can be implemented in practice,” said Niki Weller, associate professor of sociology, who facilitates the series with Theresa Ochoa, associate professor in the IU School of Education, Bloomington.
“Girls are vastly understudied. They are marginalized in society, but they are also marginalized once they become involved in the justice system,” she said. “The crimes they commit are treated differently, and often the reasons they are incarcerated and penalized are different than boys. We want to bring more awareness to this population, to try to better understand the experiences that delinquent girls are facing, and how some of their life experiences impact their institutionalized experience.”
The series, offered by the Global Consortium on Juvenile Delinquency & Prevention, kicked off in June and continues with hour-long sessions at noon Eastern time every first Tuesday through November. Those interested may register for one or more sessions. There will be Spanish language translators available.
Weller said with a rising number of girls being incarcerated, treating them based on what works for boys is no longer good enough, and solutions based on girls’ needs must be implemented.
The series includes speakers from countries in North America, South America, Central America, and Europe. Weller noted that the final session, on November 2, includes girls from around the world who will talk about their personal experiences in the juvenile justice system.
“One of the best parts of this is we have global collaboration,” Weller said. “We have people from multiple countries who are working together to address these issues. Juvenile delinquency is a global issue. When you bring together individuals from around the world, with a vast array of expertise, we’re more likely to be productive in finding solutions to treat not only the trauma, but also how we respond when girls become delinquent.”
Weller encouraged anyone interested in the topics to attend the virtual sessions, noting that it will include at least 15-20 minutes of time for audience members to ask questions.
“This is not just a scholarly presentation,” she said. “The panelists will have a conversation to set the tone for that theme, and then the audience has a chance to not only ask questions but provide their own experiences and observations. It’s a very interactive opportunity.”
The July 6 session, “Girls Incarcerated: Pros and Cons of the Media’s Portrayal of Females in Correctional Confinement,” includes speakers Ochoa; Ingrid Engene Gøranson, from Norway; and Marisol Ramirez Sanchez, Mexico. Kate Aguilar, IU Kokomo coordinator of student life and campus diversity, serves as moderator.
Additional sessions include:
August 3: Beyond the Cradle: Opportunities and Challenges Faced by Adolescent Mothers who Raise Children while Deprived of Liberty
September 7: Mental Health of Incarcerated Women: A Social Justice Perspective
October 5: Family Support for Incarcerated Girls and
November 2: Girl Power
The series is funded by the Global Gateway Network Office of the Vice President for International Affairs, the IU School of Education and the IU Kokomo School of Humanities and Social Sciences.