Effectively serving and supervising girls are among the most difficult issues facing detention reform. While girls present a low public safety risk, they often exhibit more serious social and mental health issues, making lock up increasingly harmful. Casey’s Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) produced a practical, detailed, how-to guide to tackle this issue head on and get true detention reform for girls started in JDAI sites.
42% of incarcerated girls in the U.S. are age 15 or under
Findings & Stats
Detention Issues for Girls
Girls commit far less-serious crimes than boys, but present far more critical social and mental health needs.
Gender and Suicide
26% of detained girls have attempted suicide vs. 7% of detained boys.
Acts of Violence Unchanged
The actual incidence of seriously violent girls is low and has not changed over the last two decades.
Conflict with parents or other guardians was a factor in more than half of the girls’ court cases.
Girls in Detention
Overall, girls comprise less than 25% of all detained youth.
Past trauma is prevalent in nearly 100% of girls deeply enmeshed in the delinquency courts.
Abuse and Detention
A massive California study found that 81% of delinquent girls had been physically abused.
Statements & Quotations
Too often, juvenile court and probation officials detain low-risk girls for lack of a safe alternative. For instance, when girls have run away and don’t have anywhere else to go, or in cases of family conflict when girls are upset emotionally and/or parents refuse to come get them and take them home. Courts may also detain girls involved in the sex trade, based on fears that the girls will return to the streets and be further exploited.
None of these situations fall within the statutory purposes of detention — to protect the public or ensure attendance in court. And girls in these situations — many of them suffering with serious mental health conditions, or victims of severe trauma — are unlikely to benefit from the harsh and sometimes traumatizing environment of a locked detention facility. Quite the contrary.
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