The number of boys locked up for crimes has dropped over the past decade, but the number of young women detained in jails and residential centers has grown, reports NPR. Girls make up the fastest-growing segment of the juvenile justice system, with more than 300,000 arrests and criminal charges every year. A new report by the Georgetown Center on Poverty, Inequality, and Public Policy says the system isn’t doing enough to help young girls.
Most girls who wind up in the justice system have family problems, trauma, or a history of abuse, says Georgetown University Prof. Peter Edelman, who co-authored the report, “Improving the Juvenile Justice System for Girls.” More than half of the girls detained these days don’t commit big crimes. More often their transgressions are things like skipping school, breaking curfew, or running away from home. “Getting them back into school and getting them back on a path without invoking the sanctions of the juvenile and criminal justice system,” Edelman says, “that is so much better in terms of not leaving those wounds and scars and preserving the possibilities for the future.”