Women and Girls in the Justice System

"Women offenders have needs different from those of men, stemming in part from their disproportionate victimization from sexual or physical abuse and their responsibility for children. They are also more likely to be addicted to drugs and to have mental illnesses." (Women Offenders: Programming Needs and Promising Approaches, National Institute of Justice).


Female criminal behavior has been commonly perceived as a less serious problem than male criminal behavior. Historically, women have been more likely to commit minor offenses and have made up only a small proportion of the offender population. Although women remain a relatively small number of all prisoners, these facts have concealed a trend in the rising percentage of female offenders, their participation in violent crime, and have inhibited the development of gender-specific programs to address the issue (Research on Women and Girls in the Criminal Justice System, National Institute of Justice, 1999).

Girls and young women have represented a growing proportion of juvenile arrests, court delinquency petitions, detentions, and post-adjudication placements since 1992, when the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act first instructed states to provide "gender-specific” treatment and prevention services. Many girls experience violence, trauma, poverty, and racial, ethnic and gender bias that can lead to their involvement in the juvenile justice system. The needs of girls must be addressed in a developmentally appropriate manner (Girls and the Juvenile Justice System Policy Guidance, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, October 2015).

This topical resource on Women and Girls in the Justice System contains the following information:

Facts and Figures – Includes the latest information and statistics.
Legislation – A sample of links to online Federal and State legislation and testimony.
Publications – A sample of available resources.
Programs – Examples of State and local programs and initiatives available online.
Training and Technical Assistance – A sample of training and technical assistance opportunities available through nationally recognized agencies and associations.
Grants and Funding – Links to Federal funding opportunities.
Related Resources – Examples of nationally recognized agencies and organizations that provide services or information.

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