Justice by Gender: The Lack of Appropriate Prevention, Division and Treatment Alternatives for Girls in the Juvenile Justice System

By Amy Bracken

While juvenile crime has been on the decline since 1994, the number of girls in the juvenile justice system has been rising both in number and percentage, says this report by the ABA’s Juvenile Justice Center in collaboration with the predominantly African-American National Bar Association. Most of this increase has been in drug abuse violations (an almost 200 percent increase), followed by curfew and loitering violations (almost 150 percent).

Why has such a disproportionate increase occurred for girls? The report’s authors speculate that it is due both to changes in definitions and treatment of certain crimes as well as to gender discrimination. (See “Are Girls Getting Worse, or Are Adults Getting Scared?,” Youth Today, Feb. 1999).

Compounding the simple problem of more girls in the juvenile justice system, says the report, is the fact that the system is often unequipped for these girls. Of the few programs that exist for girls, say the authors, most are modeled after programs for boys, thus, they claim, failing to meet girls’ “unique developmental, physiological and emotional needs.” For example, girls are more likely than boys to be substance abusers, victims of abuse, behind in school, and in need of safe housing. 46 pages. Free, but available online only. American Bar Association, Juvenile Justice Center, 740 15th St., NW, Washington, DC 20005. (202) 662-1506. E-mail:


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