“Jacked Up and Unjust” by Katherine Irwin and Karen Umemota


Katherine IrwinKaren Umemota
University of California Press (2016)
ISBN 9780520283039
Reviewed by Carol Hoyer for Reader Views(5/17)

If you love to read research or clinical data, “Jacked Up and Unjust” by Katherine Irwin and Karen Umemota is the book for you. It is an academic research book that revolves around troubled teens In Hawaii. The subjects are from the inner city and have experienced extreme forms of racism, sexism, poverty and neglect. The teens include Native Hawaiian, Samoan and Pacific Islander youth. The authors are very clear in the beginning of the book that this study is not specific to all youths, but only included teens with this criterion.

As a parent, former teacher and Psychologist, I know that teen violence is a concern to all law enforcement, schools and social service agencies. Most agencies and studies have only focused on males, urban areas and middle class. Numerous studies have been done with very little viable solutions.

Many of the subjects in this book are involved in a “lunch bunch,” which is a support group that meets at schools and is nonjudgmental, which lets youth talk about challenges in their lives. I often find that such groups are facilitated by individuals who have not experienced any of the prejudices or experiences these youths have. It is very important that any agencies, law enforcement or professionals have an extensive background in knowing how and why these youths and their families behave as they do. It goes beyond book learning, it means getting out into the field and getting down and dirty.

I found the study to be very well done, however, to the lay person it can seem boring and full of facts that would go over anyone’s head. Having just finished my doctoral studies, written numerous papers, and completed research, I found this study to be rather dry. I would  liked to have seen another book done on this topic by the authors that are like “spark notes,” for the general population. I do think the basic information will give individuals a better understanding of the “why” youth violence occurs.

I believe that most of us who have or currently work with troubled youth realize what we are dealing with, yet there is no one solution that seems to work. Research is a great way to gather information, but more helpful would be to suggest viable solutions that could be put into place now.

I thought the authors, Katherine Irwin and Karen Umemota, did an excellent job with “Jacked Up and Unjust,” a nine-year project. They provided a lot of information and facts, yet I am still waiting on the “what to do.”

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