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THE ELASTICITY OF THE LAW: Treating Girls in Distress in Israel through the Shadow of the Law

Mimi Ajzenstadt and Odeda Steinberg
The British Journal of Criminology
Vol. 35, No. 2 (Spring 1995), pp. 236-247
Published by: Oxford University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23638553
Page Count: 12
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THE ELASTICITY OF THE LAW: Treating Girls in Distress in Israel through the Shadow of the Law
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Abstract

The article examines the use of the 'shadow of the law' by a welfare agency in Israel, as a quasi-legal therapeutic technique in the treatment of adolescent girls defined as 'at risk'. The method employs the threat of invoking the Youth Act, which empowers a judge to force minors to undergo treatment, if the girls fail to co-operate with Unit workers. Treatment in the 'shadow of the law' is supported and legitimized by a mixture of diagnostic, psychological, and pragmatic considerations, combined with normative principles relating to the 'appropriate' behaviour of adolescent girls. Through the operation of this control mechanism, the Unit workers monitor the girls' conduct, imposing upon them patterns of gendered behaviour that replicate dominant meanings of femininity and reinforce gender stereotypes.

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