The UCLA Law Review has published two notable articles on the topic of girls in the juvenile justice system as part of their 2012 symposium, Underprotected & Overpoliced: Women, Race & Criminalization.
Both articles are available for free download from the Law Review’s website.
The first, Blind Discretion: Girls of Color and Delinquency in the Juvenile Justice System, is by Jyoti Nanda, Lecturer in Law, Core Faculty in both the Critical Race Studies Program and the David J. Epstein Program in Public Interest Law & Policy at UCLA School of Law.
Here is the abstract:
The juvenile justice system was designed to empower its decisionmakers with a wide grant of discretion in hopes of better addressing youth in a more individualistic and holistic, and therefore more effective, manner. Unfortunately for girls of color in the system, this discretionary charter given to police, probation officers, and especially judges has operated without sufficiently acknowledging and addressing their unique position. Indeed, the dearth of adequate gender/race intersectional analysis in the research and the stark absence of significant system tools directed at the specific characteristics of and circumstances faced by girls of color have tracked alarming trends such as the rising number of girls in the system and the relatively harsher punishment they receive compared to boys for similar offenses. This willful blindness must stop. This Article discusses the history and modern status of the juvenile justice system as it relates to girls of color, showing how it does not, in fact, relate to girls of color. There is hope, however. This Article concludes with policy recommendations, focusing on practical solutions and tools that will help decisionmakers exercise their considerable discretion to serve, rather than disserve, girls of color. The message to system actors is simple: Open your eyes! We owe that to our girls.
The full article may be downloaded here.
The second, Justice for Girls: Are We Making Progress, is by Francine T. Sherman, Visiting Clinical Professor and Director, Juvenile Rights Advocacy Project, Boston College Law School.
Here is the abstract:
Over the course of more than a century, structural gender bias has been a remarkably durable feature of U.S. juvenile justice systems. Consequently, as these systems have developed over the years, reducing gender bias and addressing girls in helpful, rather than harmful, ways has required specific and concerted efforts on the part of federal and state governments. Currently, there are a number of positive trends in juvenile justice, including policy and practice that is increasingly developmentally centered and data driven. The question for those focused on girls in the juvenile justice system is how to ensure that girls are the beneficiaries of these positive trends.
This Article discusses the history of federal leadership on girls’ issues and then considers the impact on girls of current trends toward developmentally centered and data-driven juvenile justice. It considers the application of developmentally centered policy in relation to girls who experience family violence and those who are commercially sexually exploited. The Article then examines the movement toward data-driven decisionmaking for its potential to reduce embedded gender bias and particularly bias at the intersection of race and gender. It examines the impact on girls of the increasing use of assessment instruments and the consequences of greater reliance on evidence-based practice as further illustrations of the new data-driven approaches. Throughout, the Article discusses the implications of these trends for girls and suggests ways that systems can ensure that girls’ issues are considered and addressed.
The full article is available here.