Number of girls in juvy on the rise, report shows

Number of girls in juvy on the rise, report shows
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The population of girls in the juvenile justice system has increased, according to a new study released Friday.

The report, “Gender Injustice: System-Level Juvenile Justice Reforms for Girls” by the National Crittenton Foundation and the National Women’s Law Center, said arrests of girls increased by 45 percent over the past two decades, while court caseloads and detentions increased by 40 percent and post-adjudication placement rose by 44 percent.

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A number of the girls coming through the system were found to have been victims of violence and sexual abuse at home and in their communities. 

“The traumatic and unhealthy social environments in which many girls live result in behaviors that are criminalized or are mishandled by other systems, resulting in girls’ entry into the juvenile justice system,” the report said.

Of the girls in the system, 37 percent were there for technical violations and fighting at home and 21 percent were in for simple assaults.

The report said girls are referred to the juvenile justice system most often because another public system has failed, such as child welfare, mental health and education, and that their offenses often pose little or no threat to public safety.

“Every day in the U.S., abused and traumatized girls enter and are pushed through the justice system,” Francine Sherman, lead author of the report and clinical law professor at Boston College Law School, said in a news release.

Sherman goes on to recommend ways to reform the juvenile criminal justice process. She said courts should stop criminalizing behaviors caused by damaging environments like prostitution and fighting, and offer police alternatives to arrest for minor offenses. 

This story was updated on Monday at 1:24 p.m. to reflect that the girls' share of the population has grown, but boys remain the majority.