Legal Consciousness Among Youth at the Red Hook Community Justice Center Open Access

Brisman, Avi (2010)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/k0698767n?locale=en
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Abstract


Scholarship on legal consciousness-the ways people understand, imagine, and
use the law, as well as their attitudes and feelings towards the law and the judicial system
(specifically, law enforcement and courts)-has focused primarily on the circumstances
and conditions under which adults turn to the law or choose not to. Little, however, is
known about the legal lives of young people. This dissertation explores dimensions of
the legal consciousness of youth (ages 14-18) involved in voluntary, non-punitive after-
school programs at the Red Hook Community Justice Center (RHCJC)-a problem-
solving court and community center located near the heart of the economically
disadvantaged, predominantly African-American and Latino neighborhood of Red Hook
in Brooklyn, N.Y. One such after-school program at the RHCJC is the Red Hook Youth
Court (RHYC)-a juvenile diversion program designed to prevent the formal processing
of juvenile offenders (usually first-time offenders) within the juvenile justice system.
Teenagers interested in serving on the RHYC must complete a training program and pass
a "bar exam" in order to become RHYC members, where they help resolve actual cases
involving their peers (e.g., assault, fare evasion, truancy, vandalism). Focusing on the
training for RHYC membership, I examine the ways in which RHYC participants (both
trainees and members) are exposed to certain ideas about the essence and operation of the
law and how their legal consciousness is transformed by the RHCJC over the course of
their participation with the RHYC. Using Ewick and Silbey's (1998) "before," "against,"
and "with" the law schemas, I endeavor to identify common features of the legal
consciousness of RHYC trainees and members. I argue that RHYC recruits and
interviewees exhibit varying degrees of " against the law" legal consciousness, but that
over the course of training, these youths begin to come " before the law." As RHYC
members, I assert that the youths are more " before the law" than before (i.e., more
" before the law" than when they were trainees) and that they become " before the law" by
becoming the law or by becoming legal players enacting the law (but not engaging " with
the law" to serve their own self-interests).

Table of Contents

TABLE OF CONTENTS


LIST OF IMAGES


CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION


CHAPTER 2: LEGAL CONSCIOUSNESS AND LEGAL ANTHROPOLOGY: A GUIDE


CHAPTER 3: RED HOOK, THE RHCJC, AND YOUTH COURTS


Red Hook, Brooklyn

Red Hook Community Justice Center

Youth Courts


CHAPTER 4: RHYC RECRUITMENT AND GROUP INTERVIEWS

Recruitment

Group Interviews



CHAPTER 5: RHYC TRAINING: AN OVERVIEW

A Typical RHYC Training Schedule


CHAPTER 6: WEEK I: WHAT TO DO WHEN STOPPED BY THE POLICE WORKSHOP


CHAPTER 7: WEEK I: WELCOME AND INTRODUCTION TO THE RED HOOK YOUTH

COURT & UNDERSTANDING THE YOUTH COURT/RESTORATIVE JUSTICE


CHAPTER 8: WEEK II: OFFENSES, CONSEQUENCES, AND SANCTIONS


CHAPTER 9: WEEK II: UNDERSTANDING THE YOUTH OFFENDER




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