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Resources on Justice Involved Women - Girls

“[R]esearchers from two long-term longitudinal studies of delinquency— the Denver Youth Survey and the Fast Track Project—collaborated to establish common delinquency measures, conduct analyses, and integrate findings on developmental patterns of girls’ offending from childhood through adolescence ” (p. 1-2). This bulletin presents some of their major results. These are: prevalence and frequency of offending—ever-prevalence, prevalence by age and/or grade, and frequency of offending behavior among girls reporting delinquency; initiation and desistance patterns—girls’ first offenses, age of first offense, and delinquency patterns by grade, transitions between delinquency patterns over time, temporal patterns of delinquency (persisters, desisters, intermittent, and late bloomers); and developmental pathways in girls’ delinquency—developmental sequences, delinquency patterns by grade, transitions between delinquency patterns over time for the Fast Track (multi-state) and the Denver studies. Some of the conclusions from this report include: most of the girls were delinquent in their childhood or adolescent years; a wide range of offending behaviors was reported; offenses were not frequent; the majority of girls did not have the same single beginning offense; and girls began and stopped offending at different ages.

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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 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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You need to read this document if you work with justice-involved girls. It explains the serious problems faced with girls in the criminal justice system and suggests ways to address these challenges and meet these girls' critical needs. This Briefing Paper is divided in to four sections: introduction—particular issues facing girls involved in criminal justice systems, numbers, and the right to non-discrimination; discrimination in the juvenile justice system—gender-specific offences, access to justice, alternatives to detention, and recommendations for eliminating this discrimination; recommendations for responding to the special needs of girls in detention—protection from violence, access to gender-sensitive healthcare, rehabilitation and reintegration, and access to effective remedy and monitoring; and conclusions. "Treating girls who are offenders and prisoners differently from their male counterparts is not unfair or discriminatory. In fact the reverse is true. Girls who offend and who are in detention have distinctive needs that must be identified and addressed so that they receive treatment that is neither better nor worse than that received by boys, but that is equitable. An important first step for policy-makers is to research and identify the background, characteristics and social reintegration needs of girl offenders and to use this to inform legislation and policies in a gender sensitive way. It is hoped that this paper demonstrates the need for gender specific policies that respond to the needs of girls and that the recommendations it contains can be a source of inspiration for law and policy makers to develop a proportionate and gender-sensitive response to offending by girls" (p. 19).

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The impact of trauma on girls involved in the juvenile justice system is examined. Sections of this fact sheet cover: why there are increasing numbers of girls in the juvenile justice system; prevalence of trauma-exposure among justice-involved girls; prevalence of PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) among justice-involved girls; potential consequences of trauma for girls; impact of the juvenile justice system on traumatized girls; and gender-responsive programming. This review suggests that trauma-informed and gender-responsive programming and intervention models are needed in order to address girls’ needs and to prevent retraumatization of girls in the juvenile justice system. Experiences of trauma, maltreatment, and victimization play a role in placing many girls on the pathway toward delinquency. Further, girls who participate in delinquent activities are at risk for retraumatization and the additional long-term consequences associated with polyvictimization (p. 8).

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This “event focused on the importance and implementation of trauma-informed approaches to girls in the system, while providing an opportunity to learn about programs that have proven effective across the country. Mr. Robert Listenbee, Administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) reaffirmed his office’s commitment to developing more information and tools about girls in the justice system in order to better meet their unique needs. The event featured Dr. Stephanie Covington, Co-Director at the Center for Gender and Justice, and her work on trauma-informed approaches to girls. As a nationally recognized clinician, Dr. Covington articulated the need for more gender-responsive and trauma-informed treatment services for women and girls in the public, private, and institutional settings.” The agenda included: Keynote Address: A Trauma-Informed Approach to Girls: What It Is and Why It’s Needed” by Dr. Covington; Discussion of Keynote—The Importance of a Trauma-Informed Approach to Girls; Panel 1—Implementation of Trauma-Informed Approaches in Public Systems; and Panel 2—Exposure to Violence and Trauma at Home and in the Neighborhood. The second link takes you to the slides for Dr. Covington’s presentation.

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