NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

More Girls Being Incarcerated

May 2, 2001

Females younger than 18 have become the fastest growing segment of the juvenile justice population, according to a report by the American Bar Association. But it would a mistake to conclude they are becoming more violent and aggressive.

Actually, they are going to jail in greater numbers for several other reasons. The report blames a relabeling of family conflicts as violent offenses, changes in police practice regarding domestic violence, sex bias in the processing of minor offenses, get-tough policies for curfew violators and a lack of services aimed at helping troubled girls.

  • Law enforcement agencies reported 670,800 arrests of females younger than 18 in 1999 -- which accounted for 27 percent of the total juvenile arrests made that year.
  • Delinquency cases involving girls jumped 83 percent between 1988 and 1997.
  • Cases involving white girls rose 74 percent and those involving blacks increased 106 percent between 1990 and 1999.
  • The number of arrests for girls increased more than male arrests for curfew and loitering, drug abuse and assault.

Girls are more likely than boys to be arrested for running away, are more often detained for less serious charges than are boys and are more likely to be sent back to detention after release.

Source: Associated Press, "ABA Finds More Girls Going to Jail," Washington Times, May 2, 2001; "Justice by Gender: The Lack of Appropriate Prevention, Diversion and Treatment Alternatives for Girls in the Juvenile Justice System," May 1, 2001, American Bar Association and National Bar Association.


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