Girls are the fastest growing population in the juvenile justice system. This population is disproportionately girls of color from low-income communities who are struggling in school. Many of the girls in the juvenile justice system have histories of family violence, sexual abuse, physical abuse and other adverse childhood experiences that often go unrecognized. This unaddressed trauma makes girls even more vulnerable to further abuse and exploitation, substance abuse, and engaging in behavior that places them at increased risk for juvenile justice involvement.
Because girls’ coping behaviors - such as running away, technical violations of probation, and simple assault - are often criminalized, too many get locked up instead of getting the services they need to heal. Providing girls with appropriate, trauma-informed services and alternatives to detention is critical to preventing them from being further marginalized in our society. We also need more gender-responsive re-entry programs that offer access to educational and vocational opportunities for system-involved girls.
Girls Inc. advocates for the reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) with provisions that - among other things - hold states accountable for girls’ outcomes, fully deinstitutionalize status offenders, and fund gender-specific prevention and treatment programs.
Girls Inc. also encourages the Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) to fund gender-specific mentoring and education programs that help prevent girls from entering the juvenile justice system in the first place.