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Juvenile Justice - Girls

For girls, as with boys, the failure to receive a high school diploma often places individuals on a pathway to low-wage work, unemployment, and incarceration. The imposition of harsh disciplinary policies in public schools is a well-known risk factor for stunted educational opportunities for Black and Latino boys. Such punishments also negatively affect their female counterparts, as do other conditions in zero-tolerance schools. Yet, the existing research, data, and public policy debates often fail to address the degree to which girls face risks that are both similar to and different from those faced by boys. This silence about at-risk girls is multidimensional and cross-institutional. The risks that Black and other girls of color confront rarely receive the full attention of researchers, advocates, policy makers, and funders. As a result, many educators, activists, and community members remain underinformed about the consequences of punitive school policies on girls as well as the distinctly gendered dynamics of zero-tolerance environments that limit their educational achievements … The research reflected in this report was designed to elevate the voices of Black girls and other girls of color affected by punitive policies so as to deepen our understanding of the ways they experience inhospitable educational environments and to produce recommendations designed to eliminate those inequities (p. 10-11).

Sections of this report following an executive summary include: the racialized and gendered contours of the crisis; the hidden toll of race on Black girls—what the data suggest—the substantial risk factors of race and ethnicity, racialized risk of punishment, racial disparity, and disproportionate discipline rates, expulsion rates, and suspension rates; what girls know—nine themes from focus group and stakeholder interviews; what can be done--recommendations for addressing the needs of girls of color; and conclusion. This website provides access to the full report, the executive summary, and a "Black Girls Matter: Social Media Guide, which provides images, tweets, and key messages for you to use in promoting the basic point that Black Girls Matter.

The goal of this exploratory research was to hear from girls from the First Coast (Duval, Clay, Nassau, Baker, and St. Johns counties) who are in juvenile residential commitment programs in Florida, to better understand their common pathways into the system, their experiences with services, and their recommendations for improving the response to girls.

This brief describes the principles of gender-responsive programs, summarizes the literature, and presents highlights of MDRC’s implementation study of PACE Center for Girls. The PACE evaluation offers an important opportunity to describe how gender-responsive principles are put into operation in a real-world setting — across 14 locations in Florida — and to investigate the effects on girls’ lives (p. 12).

This fact sheet is a great reference if you are looking for a concise resource showing the increase in the number of women and girls being incarcerated and a comparison between the rates of imprisoned women and men and between girls and boys. 

Gender-specific somatic interventions can be transformative for system-involved girls who have experienced trauma. This report defines the core components of somatic interventions for traumatized girls, presents data documenting positive effects, and makes specific policy and practice recommendations to increase access for system-involved girls.

Juvenile justice systems reform is occurring across the country as a result of a growing understanding of developmental and neurological differences between youth and adults, the high cost of incarceration, and the consistent failure of a punitive juvenile justice model. However, even as systems are initiating reforms and changing their approach, they are routinely failing to modify those reforms for girls or even to collect data on how girls, specifically, are affected by the problems they are seeking to remedy. As a result, the particular impact on girls of failures in the juvenile justice system is not understood and few juvenile reforms are tailored to girls’ needs and pathways into the system—meaning girls and young women are unlikely to fully benefit from system reforms. Many of the problems discussed in this report are not unique to girls—and many of the suggested paths forward can benefit both boys and girls. However, because girls are frequently left out of reform discussions, an intentional focus on girls is needed to ensure that they fully benefit from system reforms … If this intentional gender focus does not coexist with current large-scale system reforms, an important opportunity for gender justice and equity and developmental system reforms will be missed (p. 3). Sections comprising this report are: A Quick Look at History--Why Systems Over-Intervene and Often Fail to Help Girls; Mapping Girls’ Justice System Paths: How Abused and Traumatized Girls Enter and Are Pushed through the Justice System; Why Focus on Girls? The Long Overdue Need to Address Deeply Rooted Trauma and Inequity-- A. Traumatic and Unhealthy Social Contexts Result in Behaviors that Drive Girls into the Juvenile Justice System, and B. The Equity Argument: Structural Inequality Sweeps Girls into Justice Systems that Fail to Support Them; Using a Developmental Approach to Meet Girls’ Needs and Reduce Justice System Involvement System Reform Recommendations--A. Why a Developmental Approach Works for Girls, and B. System Reform Recommendations; and Conclusion.

The accompanying info-graphic is an excellent illustration of: the social context and conflict and abuse at home; understandable behavior linked to trauma and social context; the current system which criminalizes girls' understandable behavior; and a better way which utilizes a developmental approach.

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This groundbreaking study provides data for the first time revealing that adults surveyed view Black girls as less innocent and more adult-like than white girls of the same age, especially between 5–14 years old (p. 2).

This report describes the implementation of PACE at the 14 centers that are participating in the evaluation. The research found that PACE successfully implemented its unique model as planned in multiple locations. Besides detailing the program’s dissemination of its gender-responsive culture and services, these findings provide useful information to social service providers who seek to replicate their own programs. In addition, the study has found that, after12 months, girls in PACE were more likely than girls in a control group to have received academic advising and mental health counseling and to have been enrolled in school (p. ix).

This practice guide will stress that efforts to safely reduce the inappropriate detention of low-risk girls must be rooted in JDAI’s [Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative’s eight] core strategies, but with an added intentional focus on applying those core strategies to girls’ unique needs and circumstances. These efforts require a strong and collaborative leadership team with the will and capacity to undertake meaningful reforms in the treatment of girls at the detention stage. The work must be rooted in careful analysis of detention management reports and individual case files to pinpoint policies or practices that may result in girls’ inappropriate or unnecessary detention, and they must lead to action as local leaders design, test and continually revise new strategies to meet girls’ needs (p. 2-3). Four chapters comprise this publication: understanding the challenge—the importance of focusing on girls in detention; getting started; using data to reduce inappropriate detention of girls; and developing a Girls Detention Reform Work Plan. Appendixes provide: Barnes County quantitative data analysis, Barnes County case file review, Girls Detention Facility Self-Assessment, and Making Detention Reform Work for Girls Research Question Worksheet.

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The toolkit provides effective culturally responsive practices for prevention programs supporting Latina youth who are at risk of placement in juvenile detention including recommendations, action steps for each recommendation, and targeted resources. Each recommendation and the corresponding action steps are included in a checklist that prevention programs can use to support direct practice, programming, and system changes (p. 4).

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