Juvenile Justice Processing of Girls
Investing in Girls: A 21st Century Strategy

At the State level, the California legislature passed SB 1657, the Juvenile Female Offender Intervention Program, in March 1998. This program would have allocated major funding to eligible counties to develop intervention programs designed to reduce juvenile crime committed by female offenders. Although the Governor of California failed to sign the bill, it may yet be resubmitted in California and used as a model for the development of similar legislation in other States. Other legislative strategies include key changes in the intake and processing of girls through the juvenile justice system (such as those mentioned below) and intensive development of gender-responsive services in every jurisdiction across the United States.1

The process of disproportionately detaining and sanctioning girls for status offenses and subsequent violations of valid court orders should be ended. OJJDP, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, members of law enforcement, and others should be directly enlisted in this effort. Effective diversion and intervention options that specifically address girls' needs and engage their families and caretakers should be developed at the community level. Family-focused programs that intervene in cases of family violence, including domestic combat between rebellious girls and their caretakers, should also be implemented at the community level.2 Further, training that provides accurate information on the characteristics and needs of female juvenile offenders and their families and on dispositional alternatives for this population should be available to law enforcement, probation officers, juvenile and family court judges, and child welfare professionals. Such training should be required for all staff working directly with girls in youth correctional facilities.