The number of kids entering the juvenile justice system has declined steadily, yet girls represent a growing share of those arrested, detained, and committed to custody, says Mother Jones. In his latest collection of photographs, “Girls in Justice,” Richard Ross—who has spent the past eight years documenting incarcerated kids—explores the lives of young women in custody. His haunting photos, taken in 250 different detention facilities, show the difficult circumstances that drive girls into the system and in many cases keep them there.
“We confine and often demonize a group of kids who have been abused and violated by the very people who should be protecting and loving them,” says Ross. “These girls in detention and commitment facilities are further abused by an organized system that can’t recognize or respond to their history and their needs…Is this the only solution we can offer?” In the book, for privacy reasons, the girls are identified by their initials, and their faces are obscured. Most of the girls Ross interviewed said their first arrest was either for running away or for larceny theft. Girls account for about 60 percent of arrests for running away from home. Ross says involvement in the justice system can lead to symptoms of post-traumatic stress for girls. The militarized climate of detention facilities is one contributing factor.