Permanent Judicial Commission on Justice for Children



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2016 Girls’ Justice Conference | OJJDP Grant – NYS Girls’ Justice Initiative

While research shows girls are no more violent than in previous years, 1 the proportion of girls in the justice system increased from 11 percent nationally in 1980, to 18 percent in 2000, and to 30 percent by 2004. 2 As overall juvenile arrests rates decreased during the last two decades, girls continue to account for nearly 30 percent of juvenile arrests in the United States. In New York State, where the age of criminal responsibility is 16 years, juvenile arrests for youth under the age of 16 years between 2004 and 2015, presented similar patterns with substantial decreases in arrest rates for boys and girls while the proportion of arrests for girls remained relatively stable, currently at 26 percent.

The emerging focus on girls in the justice system coincides with an increasing understanding of child development and the effects of trauma that are interconnected with justice system involvement and related to immediate and future well-being. Further, research has demonstrated   disparities within the justice system – including by race, ethnicity, sex and gender. Different patterns emerge for girls and boys as to how they enter and progress through the justice system – patterns that reflect their personal experiences, their responses to those experiences, and how the justice system responds to those behaviors. 3 These patterns also reflect racial, ethnic and gender biases. Typically, and disproportionately, girls in the juvenile justice system are non-violent, low-risk and high-need. 4

To date, the Commission has initiated two efforts to raise awareness of and address the needs of girls involved in the justice system or at risk of involvement in the system.

• To kick-off the Girls’ Justice efforts in New York, the Commission – in partnership with the New York University Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools (NYU) and the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) – convened the Girls’ Justice: A Conference for Child Welfare, School and Justice Practitioners on July 20, 2016, at the NYU Metro Center.

• Also in 2016, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention released a Request for Proposals aiming to Reduce the Reliance on Confinement and Improve Community Based Responses for Girls At Risk of Entering the Juvenile Justice System. The New York State Unified Court System (UCS) submitted and was awarded a grant for the New York State Girls’ Justice Initiative (GJI) – a collaboration led by UCS and implemented by the Commission in partnership with NYU and DCJS to address the documented criminalization of girls’ behaviors, including those related to status offenses and technical violations of probation that too often reflect trauma-induced responses, and the need to implement gender-specific, trauma-informed policies and programs for girls at-risk or involved with the juvenile justice system.


1 Zahn, Margaret A., Stephanie R. Hawkins, Janet Chiancone and Ariel Whitworth. 2008. The Girls Study Group—Charting the Way to Delinquency Prevention for Girls. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/ojjdp/223434.pdf

2 OJJDP. 2010. Girls Delinquency. U.S. Department of Justice. https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/ojjdp/228414.pdf; OJJDP. 2010. Causes and Correlates of Girls’ Delinquency. U.S. Department of Justice.  https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/ojjdp/228414.pdfhttps://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/ojjdp/226358.pdf.

3 Sherman, Francine T. and Annie Balck, 2015. Gender Injustice: System-Level Juvenile Justice Reforms for Girls. The National Crittenton Foundation. http://www.nationalcrittenton.org/gender-injustice; OJJDP. 2016. Policy Guidance: Girls and the Juvenile Justice System. http://www.ojjdp.gov/policyguidance/girls-juvenile-justice-system/.

4 Watson, Liz and Peter Edelman. 2012. Improving the Juvenile Justice System for Girls: Lessons from the States. Georgetown Center on Poverty, Inequality and Public Policy. http://www.law.georgetown.edu/academics/centers-institutes/poverty-inequality/upload/JDS_V1R4_Web_Singles.pdf.

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