What about poverty? How risk assessments affect girls in jail

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Our society is becoming increasingly obsessed with security and on ways to assess and manage risk.

This trend is finding its ways behind bars where risk assessment models are being used to manage prisoners.

Christie Barron wanted to find out what the impact of this new approach was having on girls in prison and what she discovered was that, ironically, the girls themselves are being put at risk by these risk management approaches.

The problem is that these approaches are framed as objective, but in reality they ignore systemic issues such as colonization and poverty. And not only are systemic issues ignored, but issues such as poverty are turned into risk factors.

Because of this aboriginal girls often face harsher treatment in the youth justice system, including spending increasing amounts of time in isolation.

With programs such as cognitive skills, the focus is on girls managing their risk, not dealing with underlying issues such as lack of housing, history of violence or challenging moral judgments about how young women are supposed to act in our society.

The girls and their actions are all treated with suspicion. Any speaking out, resistance or ways of defending oneself is treated with further punishment and isolation.

Christie Barron is the author of Giving Youth a Voice: Rethinking Adolescent Violence. Christie studied these issues in the Saskatchewan youth justice system as part of her PhD. She currently teaches at the University of Calgary.

Stark Raven spoke with Christie about these concepts of risk, control and the impact on criminalized young women.

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