From the newly-released 2011 State of America’s Children Report by the Children’s Defense Fund:
More Girls Enter the Juvenile Justice System
The caseload of girls in the juvenile justice system has greatly increased in the last 30 years. In 1980, girls made up 20 percent of all juvenile arrests.1 By 2009, girls made up 30 percent of all juvenile arrests. The rise in the number of girls in the system seems to be largely due to changes in arrest policies, rather than changes in behavior among girls. 2 Girls are disproportionately arrested for status offenses, or acts that are illegal only when a minor has committed them, such as curfew violations, under-age drinking, running away, and truancy. Most states are attempting to divert status offenders to counseling or other community-based services to prevent entry into the juvenile justice system. However, these alternatives are not available to all who need them, and there are many problems associated with incarcerating girls for status offenses.
Girls are overrepresented in the juvenile justice system for status offenses
• In 2007, the most recent national data on girls in residential placement showed that girls made up about 14 percent of all youth in placement. These data also showed that girls were disproportionately incarcerated for status offenses. Girls made up
51 percent of juveniles in residential placement for running away;
31 percent of truancy offenses;
36 percent of underage drinking offenses; and
40 percent of incorrigibility offenses.3
• Girls made up 55 percent of runaway arrests in 2009.4 Other characteristics about girls in the juvenile justice system
• Estimates of girls in the juvenile justice system who have been abused range from 40 to
• Seventy-five percent of girls in the system report being regular users of alcohol and/or drugs.6
• Girls (9%) were more likely than boys (2%) to report forced sexual activity with other youth while in confinement.7
• American Indian and Black girls are four and three times more likely to be incarcerated than White girls, respectively.8
1 U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Snyder, Howard N. and Sickmund, Melissa, Juvenile Offenders and Victims: 2006 National Report, at http://www.ojjdp.gov/ojstatbb/nr2006/downloads/nr2006.pdf>.
2 U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, OJJDP In Focus, Girls’ Delinquency.
3 U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, and National Center for Juvenile Justice, Census of Juveniles in Residential Placement Databook, Race/Ethnicity by State, 2007.
4 U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Crime in the United States 2009, Table 33.
5 Chesney-Lind, M. & Sheldon, R.G. (1998). Girls, delinquency, and juvenile justice. Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole.
6 Acoca, L. (1999). Investing in girls: A 21st century strategy. Juvenile Justice, vol 6 (1). Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
7 U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Special Report, Sexual Victimization in Juvenile Facilities Reported by Youth, 2008-2009.
8 U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, and National Center for Juvenile Justice, Census of Juveniles in Residential Placement Databook, Race/Ethnicity by State, 2007.