Early Career Scholar Abena Sabira Mackall was recently awarded a prestigious National Academy of Education / Spencer Foundation Dissertation Fellowship for 2017-18. She joins 34 other fellows nationally who receive $27,500 for a period of up to two years to complete their dissertations. Abena's project is titled "Arrested in Adolescence: Youth Perceptions of Relationships, School Experiences, and Justice System Involvement."
Annually, nearly 1.5 million youth under age 18 are arrested nationwide. Regardless of the outcome of their arrests, this formal contact with the juvenile/criminal justice systems (J/CJS) is a critical developmental turning point, with substantial implications along the life course. Arrests during adolescence are associated with social isolation, low educational attainment, and continued system-involvement. However, the underlying mechanisms through which contact with the police and courts results in these undesirable outcomes for youth is unclear. Do young people internalize the idea that they are ‘delinquent,’ which prompts additional offending? Or, do the societal responses to J/CJS involvement, such as exclusion from schools and similar institutions, lead to continued crime-involvement? Abena's dissertation expands our understanding of adolescent arrest using data from three rounds of phenomenological interviews with youth whose first arrest occurred prior to their 18th birthday and contextual interviews with stakeholders who have either personal or professional experiences with youth who have been arrested.