Report: System Fails Delinquent Girls

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As recent high-profile crimes in Massachusetts focused attention on delinquency among girls, a national report by a Boston-based advocacy group has found that despite a decade-old federal mandate to improve juvenile services along gender lines, the justice system continues to fail girls.

The report, the first of three by the Girls Justice Initiative, said nearly 90 percent of the 118 juvenile defense attorneys and nearly two-thirds of the 92 juvenile court judges surveyed found that female juvenile programs were inadequate, with gaps in the services most likely to keep girls from becoming chronic, violent offenders.

More than half of the judges and 72 percent of the lawyers polled said job training was lacking, and in many cases, the report found, judges and lawyers who wanted to point girls toward vocational training didn’t know where to look.

A majority of judges and attorneys said detention facilities were ill-equipped to deal with pregnant girls and young mothers, and mental health programs have failed to properly diagnose or treat girls for sexual abuse and other trauma — concerns that are still reverberating in Boston, after three teenage girls in April attempted suicide while in Department of Youth Services custody.


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