Sherman, Francine T.
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.
This is an excellent introduction to the issues surrounding girls in the juvenile justice system. "The majority of girls in the system are there for status and misdemeanor offenses and violations of probation. Both the behaviors that result in girls' arrests and the structural mechanisms that pull them into the justice system for those behaviors relate to child development. Girls' behaviors should be understood ecologically, as reactions to and in tension with the concentric circles of family, community, and society in girls' lives, and it is that ecological framing that provides more nuanced and developmentally informed responses" (p. 12). Sections of this article covers: the history of girls and juvenile justice; child development, juvenile justice policy, and girls; what It means for girls; trauma; domestic violence; commercial sexual exploitation; and using data in juvenile justice.
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.