In the context of two hundred years of American colonial control in the Pacific, Katherine Irwin and Karen Umemoto shed light on the experiences of today’s inner city and rural girls and boys in Hawai‘i who face racism, sexism, poverty, and political neglect. Basing their book on nine years of ethnographic research, the authors highlight how legacies of injustice endure, prompting teens to fight for dignity and the chance to thrive in America, a nation that the youth describe as inherently “jacked up”—rigged—and “unjust.” While the story begins with the youth battling multiple contingencies, it ends on a hopeful note with many of the teens overcoming numerous hardships, often with the guidance of steadfast, caring adults.
1. Literature Review and Background
2. The Caring Adult Role and Youth Research
3. “Us Girls Get the Second Half ”: Girls’ Early Socialization and Outspoken Femininity v 4. Fighting for Her Honor: High School Girls’ Struggles for Respect
5. Boys’ Fights and the Jacked-Up System
6. Sea of Good Intentions: Juvenile Protection in the Shadow of Punishment
7. Youth Prepare for Adulthood
8. Theoretical Conclusions
9. Compassionate and Constructive Policy and Practice
Appendix 1. Data Sources and Participant Demographics
Appendix 2. Demographics of Quoted Teens
Katherine Irwin is Professor of Sociology at the University of Hawai‘i, Manoa. She is the coauthor with Meda Chesney-Lind of Beyond Bad Girls: Gender, Violence, and Hype.
Karen Umemoto is Professor of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Hawai‘i, Manoa. She is the author of The Truce: Lessons from an L.A. Gang War.
"Irwin and Umemoto skillfully emphasize how racial inequalities have developed in a context that supports the oppression of persons of color. . . The book is based on extensive ethnographic research, and Irwin and Umemoto approached it in an innovative way, defining themselves as supportive adults rather than as shadowing or participating in the youths’ lives."—Journal of Children and Poverty
“This remarkable book demonstrates the incredible spirit of resilience that young people generate as they encounter poverty, racism, violence, and institutional failure and neglect. Katherine Irwin and Karen Umemoto insightfully demonstrate the processes and programs that work in changing the punitive treatment that marginalized youths receive. This riveting ethnography provides readers with a rare look at the experiences of young women and men within the juvenile justice system.”—Victor Rios, author of Punished: Policing the Lives of Black and Latino Boys
“Jacked Up and Unjust
sensitively captures the complex of forces that bear down on a youth population we know very little about, helping us to understand the violence enacted upon them and by them, the turbulence and entanglements of Hawai‘i’s colonial past, racial and gender injustice, the penalty of poverty, and the fallout from youth incarceration. A thoughtful ethnography.”—Amy L. Best, author of Fast Cars, Cool Rides: The Accelerating World of Youth and Their Cars
“This ethnography is a critical analysis of the experiences of Pacific Islander adolescents whose lives are plagued by interpersonal, structural, and postcolonial violence. A one of a kind in its deployment of intertwining analytic approaches of colonial criminology, this book uncovers new ways to understand the meaning-making work of the youth participants’ experiences.”—Laurie Schaffner, author of Girls in Trouble with the Law