L.A. County Works to Deal With Health Problems of Girls In Custody


Health issues of about 9,400 girls in juvenile detention centers around the U.S. are serious and complex, says the Los Angeles Times. Many of the girls don’t have regular doctors, so their physical and emotional problems often go undiagnosed and untreated. That continues when they enter a system designed for boys and slow to adapt to girls. “Their health needs are different; they are more severe and more complicated than boys’,” said Catherine Gallagher, a George Mason University professor and an expert in juvenile justice. “They come in underserved. [ ] They remain underserved.”

More than one-third of girls in custody nationwide have a history of sex abuse, compared with 8 percent of boys. Girls have had more physical abuse, suicide attempts, and drug-related problems, says the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Few juvenile centers meet minimum health care standards, and girls are less likely than boys to get care they need. Research shows many problems could be addressed if officials ask the right questions. Most detention center screeners are not health professionals and the questions are not designed for girls. Los Angeles County health and probation officials now are working to better identify and treat health and mental problems of 240 girls in custody. They use the Girls Health Screen, a 117-question survey from Leslie Acoca of the L.A.-based National Girls Health and Justice Institute.

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