Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Diane Marano's "Juvenile Offenders and Guns"

Diane Marano served as an assistant prosecutor in Camden, New Jersey, for twenty-five years, supervising the juvenile unit for over two decades. She earned her PhD in Childhood Studies from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey in Camden, USA, and has taught Juvenile Justice, Juvenile Law, and Urban Education there.

Marano applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Juvenile Offenders and Guns: Voices Behind Gun Violence, and reported the following:
Guns have long been a part of both American history and myth. The image of a man with a gun pervades our film, TV, and literature. Yet the urban youth of color with a gun strikes many of us not as a part of this long tradition, but rather as alien and fearsome. We may see him as both dangerous and in danger, but in any case we may be inclined to give him a wide berth, avoiding both him and his entire world.

In researching and writing Juvenile Offenders and Guns: Voices behind Gun Violence I wanted to learn from incarcerated young men themselves how they perceived and experienced their worlds, and how these perceptions influenced their gun acquisition and use. I also wanted to understand the meanings that guns held for them, in terms of utility, symbolism, and identity processes.

Why does a boy in the inner-city get a gun? What does having a gun mean to him? How does he feel about any gun violence in which he may become involved? I interviewed 25 young men incarcerated for juvenile offenses to explore these and other questions. Through their stories of both offending and victimization, the young men revealed their views of themselves, their families, their neighborhoods, and the larger world. More particularly, they revealed the many meanings and functions that guns have for them.

More broadly, they provided a picture of a kind of childhood and adolescence in which gender, class, and race shaped their worlds and their responses to those worlds. Page 99 of the book begins in a section that frames gun violence from the young men’s perspectives. While only some of those I interviewed said they used guns aggressively toward others, those who did described various ways in which they justified or minimized their actions. The chapter in which page 99 falls is called Producing Violence: “You gotta have a ‘don’t care’ attitude,” and on this page some boys explained that they sidestepped guilty feelings by not robbing women or the elderly, or by only robbing drug dealers. One well-known effect of such a policy, however, is that it leaves young men of color as the target of choice, as it dovetails with a tendency to victimize those, usually of the same race, who are most readily encountered in the young person’s environment.

Is page 99 representative of the book? I’ll let you decide.
Learn more about Juvenile Offenders and Guns at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue