National Women's Law Center (Washington, DC)
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.