Girls are the fastest growing segment of the juvenile justice population. This is due to the labeling of family conflicts as violent offenses, police practices and laws requiring arrests in domestic violence situations, gender-biased processing of misdemeanor cases, and misunderstanding of developmental issues.
Girls enter the juvenile justice system at younger ages than boys and with complex needs. Many have experienced multiple traumatic events, including early sexual and emotional violence, homelessness, teen pregnancy and parenting, and difficult family issues. Not surprisingly, a majority of girls in juvenile detention experience mental health challenges.
To address these issues, AIR is partnering with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and the National Crittenton Foundation to operate the National Girls’ Institute (NGI).
NGI is building on significant work over the last ten years to improve delinquency programming and practices and treatment of girls already in detention and to reduce the number of girls in the juvenile justice system. Anchored in principles of family and youth engagement as well as gender-responsive, evidence-based, developmentally-appropriate, and trauma-informed practices to support healing for girls, NGI is
- developing and disseminating information on causes of delinquency in girls and how programs can enhance their responses;
- improving capacity of individuals and systems to serve at-risk and delinquent girls and their families;
- identifying roots of inadequate support for at-risk and delinquent girls and addressing these deficiencies; and
- facilitating effective communication and collaboration among organizations and staff serving girls.