Girls in the Juvenile JusticeSystemCharli A. MaderArgosy University Twin Cities
Introduction More girls are entering the juvenile justice system for status offenses than boys. A status offense is any activity that is only considered illegal because the culprit is a minor, such as underage drinking, running away, or breaking curfew. In 1980, girls made up 20 percent of all juvenile arrests. By 2009, girls made up 30 percent of all juvenile arrests. The issues underlying their delinquent acts, such as physical and sexual abuse, mental health disorders, as well as a troubled home life, are not being addressed. Girls’ pathways into delinquency can be diverted through the development and implementation of programs incorporating gender responsive approaches. Initiatives developed to address female delinquency should be based on the developmental, psychological, and social characteristics of this population. Relocation, as well as counseling on an individual level and group involvement, should be considered to divert these girls from the juvenile justice system.
Girls are Over-Represented in the System The caseload of girls in the juvenile justice system has greatly increased in the last 30 years. Although the juvenile justice system is still dominated by boys, in 1980, girls made up only 20 percent of all juvenile arrests, but by 2009, girls were up to 30 percent of all arrests (Children’s Defense Fund, 2008). Data suggests, however, that female delinquency has changed little in the past two decades (Chesney-Lind & Shelden, 1998). The Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) found that in 2007 girls made up about 14 percent of all youth in placement (2008). These data also showed that girls were disproportionately incarcerated for status offenses. Girls made up 51 percent of juveniles in residential placement for running away; 31 percent of truancy offenses; 36 percent of underage drinking offenses; and 40 percent of incorrigibility offenses (CDF, 2008).
Reasons Behind Girls’ Delinquency Girls often have a different reason for expressing aggression than boys. There is an association among anxiety symptoms and the combined subtypes of aggression in girls (Marsee, Weems, & Taylor, 2007). Delinquent girls often have a background of violence and abuse. Research in the State of Virginia indicates that the rate of physical abuse at home is twice as high in delinquent girls, 28 percent, as it is in delinquent boys, 14 percent, and the rate of sexual abuse at home is almost seven times higher , 34 percent involving girls verses 5 percent involving boys (Cooney, Small, & O’Conner, 2008).
Reasons Behind Girls’ DelinquencyContinued… The families of delinquent girls, in comparison to those of delinquent boys, are more likely to be severely dysfunctional. In comparison to boys, girls’ abusive and traumatic events tend to occur earlier, and are more likely to be committed by a family member (Cooney, Small, O’Conner, 2008). Mental disorders are more ubiquitous in females: Affective Disorders Substance Use Disorders Disruptive Behaviors Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Delinquent Girls Entering a SystemDesigned for Boys In the past, girls progressed through a correctional system designed for men and boys, while the complexities of female offenders have been disregarded. Female juvenile delinquents often received more severe punishments than males, even though males were usually charged with more serious crimes (Schlossman & Wallach, 1978). As Christy Sharp and Jessica Simon pointed out in their book entitled, Girls in the Juvenile Justice System: The Need for More Gender-Responsive Service, “all youth-serving systems—juvenile justice, child welfare, mental health, education, and so forth—and communities need to collaborate to create gender-competent programs for females involved with or at risk of involvement in the juvenile justice system” (2004).
Delinquent Girls Entering a SystemDesigned for Boys Continued… Psychologists are developing programming specifically for girls in the juvenile justice system. One report by Lisa A. Rapp-Paglicci, Albert R. Roberts, and John S. Wodarski, titled, Handbook of Violence, states that there are specific criteria that must be addressed when initiating the programming for these girls (2002). They include: dealing with the physical and sexual violence in the girls’ lives, confronting the risk of AIDS, dealing with pregnancy and motherhood, overcoming drug and alcohol dependency, facing family problems, gaining employment and safe housing assistance, managing stress, developing a sense of efficacy and empowerment, and addressing learning disabilities and providing educational opportunities (Rapp-Paglicci et al., 2002).
Potential Diversion Programming Diversion Programs such as: Community-based services Community counselors Group sessions with girls of similar age and histories, and an overall feeling of not being alone in their situation is a step in the right direction for these girls Relocation
Recommendations for ReducingDelinquency in Girls by Ann B. Loper Ann B. Loper, author of Female Juvenile Delinquency: Risk Factors and Promising Interventions, has a list of recommendations for reducing delinquent behavior by girls (1999). Loper stresses the need to: provide a forum for open and safe discussion of personal safety, abuse and victimization, address mental health needs and substance abuse, have counselors provide academic support services and encourage school, church and community participation, implement positive role model will also help in deterring these girls from delinquency; and finally, provide information about reproductive health and teenage parenting, as well as parent training and child-care relief time for teenage mothers (Loper, 1999).
Conclusion Even though there are steps being taken to help these delinquent girls, the reality is that girls are being arrested more frequently for status offenses than boys. The underlying problems, such as physical and sexual abuse, and mental health disorders, are factors associated with committing these offenses, and are not being properly observed. Also, the current juvenile justice system is designed for boys and young men; the system needs to implement programs specifically to meet the needs of girls and young women in order to decrease the recidivism rates. By creating programs such as community housing and relocation, service requirements, positive role models, and community counseling, both individually and as a group, these girls will have a chance to break their old habits and reveal the underlying problems, which will hopefully aid in the beginning of the healing process.
References Cauffman, E.; Feldman, S.; Watherman, J.; Steiner, H. (1998). Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Among Female Juvenile Offenders. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 37, 1209-1216. Chesney-Lind, M & Shelden, R. G. (1998). Girls, Delinquency, and Juvenile Justice, Second Edition. Retrieved from https://www.ncjrs.gov/App/Publications/abstract.aspx?ID=183683 Children’s Defense Fund (CDF). (2008). State of America’s Children 2008. Retrieved from: http://www.childrensdefense.org/child-research-data- publications/data/state-of-americas-children-2011-report.html Cooney, S. M.; Small, S. A.; O’Conner, C. (2008). Girls in the juvenile justice system: Toward effective gender-responsive programming. What Works, Wisconsin-Research to Practice, 7. Loper, A. (1999). Female Juvenile Delinquency: Risk Factors and Promising Interventions. Retrieved from https://www.ncjrs.gov/App/Publications/abstract.aspx?ID=183499 Marsee, M. A.; Weems, C. F.; Taylor, L. K. (2007). Exploring the Association between Aggression and Anxiety in Youth: A Look at Aggressive Subtypes, Gender, and Social Cognition. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 17, 154-168.
References Continued… Rapp-Paglicci, L. A.; Roberts, A. R.; Wodarski, J. S. (2002). Handbook of Violence. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.: New York. Schlossman, S. & Wallach, S. (1978). The crime of precocious sexuality: Female juvenile delinquency in the progressive era. Harvard Educational Review, 48, 65-94. Sharp, C. & Simon, J. (2004). Girls in the Juvenile Justice System: The Need for More Gender-Responsive Services. Child Welfare League of America Press: Washington, D. C. Slowikowski, J. (2010). Causes and Correlates of Girls’ Delinquency. Retrieved from: https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/ojjdp/226358.pdf Veysey, B. M. (2003). Adolescent Girls with Mental Health Disorders Involved with the Juvenile Justice System. Research and Program Brief.
Author’s Notes Introduction (Slide #2): Here we discuss what the paper and the presentation is about. Make sure to leave time for questions from the audience about the topic. Girls are Over-Represented in the System (#3): The data provided paints the picture of over-representation in the juvenile system. The juvenile justice system needs to focus less on introducing these young women into the juvenile justice system and more on diversion programming in order to help, not hinder, the growth and development of each girl.
Author’s Notes Continued… Reasons Behind Girls’ Delinquency (#4): One study, Exploring the Association between Aggression and Anxiety in Youth: A Look at Aggressive Subtypes, Gender, and Social Cognition, performed by Monica A. Marsee, Carl F. Weems, and Leslie K. Taylor, suggests that there is an association between anxiety and reactive relational aggression; gender was found to moderate the association (2007). The authors discovered that four aggressive subtypes exist: reactive overt, reactive relational, proactive overt, and proactive relational, and that there is an association among anxiety symptoms and the combined subtypes of aggression in girls. Siobhan Cooney, Stephen Small, and Cailin O’Conner, authors of the article Girls in the juvenile justice system: Toward effective gender- responsive programming, did find that some predictors of involvement with the juvenile justice system, such as antisocial behavior, peers, attitudes, and beliefs, are prevalent in both genders (2008). Girls’ delinquency, however, is more likely to be preceded by physical and sexual abuse and troubled family and school relationships.
Author’s Notes Continued… Reasons Behind Girls’ Delinquency Continued (#5): A study was conducted about psychiatric illness among youth in detention, which found that 74 percent of girls met the criteria for a current mental disorder, as opposed to 66 percent of boys (Veysey, 2003). Affective disorders are especially dominant among females in the juvenile justice system, with more than 25 percent of females meeting criteria for a major depressive episode. Bonita M. Veysey, author of Adolescent Girls with Mental health Disorders Involved with the Juvenile Justice System, states that, “almost half of all females in this study were found to have a substance use disorder and more than 40 percent met criteria for disruptive behaviors” (2003). In her article, Veysey identifies other studies that have found similar data; “in a study using the Massachusetts Youth Screening Instrument (MAYSI) to examine the mental health needs of youth entering a juvenile detention center, girls’ mean scores were higher than males on all of the MAYSI subscales, with a statistically significant difference between genders on the Depressed-Anxious, Somatic Complaints and Suicide Ideation subscales. It was also estimated that 84 percent of girls compared to 27 percent of boys had evidence of serious mental health problems” (Veysey, 2003).
Author’s Notes Continued… Slide (#5) Continued: Another study suggests that a large number of incarcerated girls also suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Elizabethi Cauffman, Shirley Feldman, Jaime Watherman, and Hans Steiner, authors of the article Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Among Female Juvenile Offenders, performed a study which examined the incidence of PTSD in a sample of 96 adolescent female offenders and its relation to socioemotional adjustment (1998). Results from this study indicate that the rate of PTSD among incarcerated female is significantly higher than the occurrence of PTSD among incarcerated male delinquents. In addition, those who suffer from PTSD also tend to exhibit higher levels of distress and lower levels of self-restraint. These findings suggest a potential relationship between trauma, psychopathology, and violence and how it directly affects female delinquents, as well as a method to deal with these issues.
Author’s Notes Continued… Delinquent Girls Entering System Designed for Boys (#6): Let the audience reflect on this slide. Leave time to answer questions after the research from the slide is articulated. Delinquent Girls Entering System Designed for Boys Continued (#7): Again, let the audience have time for reflection and questions. Potential Diversion Programming (#8): Diversion programs are in place, however the lack of support from the communities and funds from the government are deterring these programs from achieving their long-term goals. Community-based services, community counselors, group sessions with girls of similar age and histories, and an overall feeling of not being alone in their situation is a step in the right direction for these girls. These kinds of groups activities need to be implemented in order to prevent them from reverting back to their old habits, and to address the underlying issues as to why they are committing these offenses.
Author’s Notes Continued… Slide (#8) Continued: One program that could potentially divert girls from entry into the system is relocation. A study has examined the effects of moving away from disadvantaged neighborhoods on later delinquency (Slowikowski, 2010). In the Moving to Opportunity study, public housing residents in five cities were randomly assigned to an experimental group in which residents could use a housing voucher to relocate to a leased unit in a non-poverty area. A control group received no vouchers. Researchers used arrest data and survey information to analyze delinquency among boys and girls in the two groups. Both girls and boys in the voucher group experienced fewer arrests for violent offenses compared with youth in the control group that did not relocate. Girls in the experimental group were also arrested less often for other crimes (Slowikowski, 2010).
Author’s Notes Continued… Recommendations for Reducing Delinquency in Girls by Ann B. Loper (#9): Discuss the recommendations listed. Reference: Loper, A. (1999). Female Juvenile Delinquency: Risk Factors and Promising Interventions. Retrieved from https://www.ncjrs.gov/App/Publications/abstract.aspx?ID=183499 Conclusion (#10): Discuss the closing recap of information, and leave time for questions and answers.
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