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Articles tagged with: Gender equality

Behind the report “The sexual abuse to Prison Pipeline: The Girls’ Story”

Friday, 09 October 2015 Posted in 2015, Research & Policy

Anne-Lise Vray, CFYJ Intern

Thesexualabusetoprisonpipeline 1

Forced into child sex trafficking at the age 13, Kyeisha got pulled into the juvenile justice system while trying to escape her abusive home. Kyeisha, now an 18 year-old juvenile justice advocate, was one of the members of today’s discussion panel on the just-released report “The Sexual Abuse to Prison Pipeline: The Girls’ Story”. This powerful document was published by the Georgetown Law Center for Poverty and Equality, in collaboration with the Human Rights Project for Girls and the Ms. Foundation for Women, and highlights how sexual abuse on girls is often a trigger leading them directly to jail. Indeed, the report reveals for example that 93% of Oregon and 81% of California girls in the juvenile justice system have been sexually or physically abused. Overall across the country, 39% of girls who get pulled into the juvenile justice system have been raped or sexually assaulted.

To raise awareness on these unbelievably true statistics, Congresswoman Karen Bass organized a panel discussion  on the report. Along with the document’s authors, the panel included several sexual abuse victims and juvenile justice survivors who courageously shared their stories. Among them, Charity Chandler-Cole, who is now working as an advocate for the Anti-Recidivism Coalition, told the audience how, when she got arrested for the first time for stealing underwear because her mom could not afford to buy some for her and her siblings, the system actually deepened and worsened her trauma. Indeed after her arrest, Charity was sent to jail where she was sexually abused. In tears, she  explained to the audience that she somehow found the inner strength to keep fighting to show the world she was worth it, but that many girls in her situation cannot hang on to anything, and that we need to be here for these traumatized children, who are victims more than offenders.

The panel also emphasized the harder struggle young women of color are facing, especially African-American girls, who even though they only represent 14% of the total U.S youth population, make up 33% of the kids in the juvenile justice system.

“Girls are ultimately being criminalized because they are abused”, said Rebecca Epstein, member of the panel and report’s co-author. Indeed, many young girls are sent to jail every year for prostitution, while they were actually being sexually exploited. In fact, although it is illegal to have sex with a minor, by some kind of legal mechanism it is possible to charge a child, who is in reality a victim of sexual trafficking, with prostitution.

Unanimously, the report and the panel recommended and urged reauthorization of the JJDPA (Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act) , strengthening of the PREA (Prison Rape Elimination Act), and overall a more comprehensive and specific approach for young girls in the juvenile justice system. This involves implementing around them a solid structure of support which understands that these kids’ backgrounds and traumas are directly related to their actions and behaviors. It also implies that we stop sending them automatically to jail, especially those who commit status offenses (i.e. age-related offenses like underage drinking or skipping school), but instead understand the causes of these offenses and provide a safe environment for them, since their home is often not one.

New Report: Gender Injustice: System-Level Juvenile Justice Reforms for Girls

Anne-Lise Vray Wednesday, 30 September 2015 Posted in 2015, Research & Policy

A young girl at Maryvale, an all-girls level-12 institution in Rosemead, California. Photo by Richard Ross.

 Anne-Lise Vray, Juvenile Justice Intern

The National Crittenton Foundation, in partnership with the National Women’s Law Center, just released a report entitled “Gender Injustice: System-Level Juvenile Justice Reforms for Girls”, which reveals how and why the girls’ experience of the American juvenile justice system is very different from the boys’. The issue has come under the spotlight as girls are increasingly entering this system but continue to lack appropriate care and support. Indeed, despite an overall decline in the arrests of youth, girls’ share of arrests has increased by 45% over the last two decades. Meanwhile, girls’ share of detentions increased by 40%. These alarming numbers are products of the incomprehensive and inadequate policies girls who get pulled into the juvenile justice system have been subjected to. Indeed, a large majority of these kids have a background of deprivation, abuse and violence, traumatic experiences that are directly related to their behaviors, which in most cases don’t pose any threat to public safety. Thus, among the girls arrested nationwide, there is a disproportionate number of them whose offenses are connected to poverty, abusive homes or poor relationships, such as “prostitution” (which is increasingly recognized as being sexual exploitation of minors), liquor law violation or curfew violation. Furthermore, the report highlights that these very young women are still consistently sent behind bars for status offenses, misdemeanors or other minor offenses that don’t represent any danger for the public.

Among these vulnerable girls, some groups are even more exposed. Young ladies of color and girls from the LBQ/GNCT (Lesbian, Bisexual, Questioning/Gender Non-Conforming or Transgender) community are indeed at a greater risk than their white/straight or gender-conforming peers to enter the juvenile justice system and to be discriminated against throughout the whole judicial process. 

The report reminds us of “Jane Doe”’s case, an “example of the way juvenile justice systems too often prioritizes control over treatment, disregarding the clear need for a developmental approach.” In 2014, a 16 year-old transgender girl of color who had been sexually abused/trafficked her whole life was sent to an adult women prison at the request of the Connecticut’s Department of Children and Families, before eventually ending up in isolation in a secure facility for boys. This story illustrates the way the needs of youth, especially of girls, are too often ignored by the juvenile justice system, from the police to the facilities’ staff. Yet, the report underlines the benefits a more comprehensive, developmental approach would have, and gives the 9 following recommendations for a reform of the system:

-        -  Stop criminalizing behavior caused by damaging environments that are out of girls’ control

-        -  Engage girls’ families throughout the juvenile justice process

-        -  Use pre-petition diversion to provide “off-ramps” from the formal justice system for girls living in traumatic social contexts

-        -  Don’t securely detain girls for offenses and technical violation that pose no public safety threat and are environmentally-driven

-         - Attorneys, judges and probation officers should use trauma-informed approaches to improve court culture for girls

-         - Adopt a strengths-based, objective approach to girls probation services

-         - Use health dollars to fund evidence-based practices and programs for girls, and address health needs related to their trauma

-         - Limit secure confinement of girls, which is costly, leads to poor outcomes, and re-traumatizes vulnerable girls

-         - Support emerging adulthood for young women with justice system histories