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Check out Orbis' blog to see articles and content with a focus on criminal and juvenile justice, child welfare, evidence-based interventions, and other matters affecting our communities. 

Are Girls in the Juvenile Justice System More Likely to be Arrested for Drug Crimes?

Posted by Orbis Partners on Sep 8, 2021 9:00:00 AM

The Proportion of Girls Arrested for Drug Crimes Is Higher Than Males

There has been some good news and statistics in the juvenile justice world recently. One is that youth drug arrests fell to about 52% since 2010. However, examining this data more closely finds something disturbing: girls now account for a larger percentage of drug charges, ranging from simple possession to manufacturing and sales, than their male counterparts.

So, what is going on? Many of these young women are girls of color, living in poverty, with poor education, and often victims of physical and sexual abuse. They get little support from the community. As the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) points out, “They are typically nonviolent and pose little or no risk to public safety. And their involvement with the juvenile justice system usually does more harm than good.” This aligns with research that points to a gendered impact of trauma-reactive substance use as a pathway to the youth justice system.

One study even found that well-intentioned judges throw abused young females from traumatic backgrounds into the system to “protect” them. The OJJDP is urging for the reduction of reliance on out-of-home placement. Instead, it calls for “a national commitment to creating healthy social environments with family, peers, community, social institutions, and society.”

Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Recommendations

The OJJDP has issued a “call to action.” This includes:

  • Prohibiting throwing girls with status and minor sex-trafficking offenses into the juvenile justice system.
  • Finding alternatives to detention and incarceration for females who are of little or no risk to public safety.
  • Creating opportunities “through healthy social environments across family, peers, community, social institutions, and society. Gender- and culturally responsive, trauma-informed, and developmentally appropriate services must become the norm and not the exception."
  • Identifying programs and services that can keep young women from entering the system.

A Gender-Responsive Solution

Orbis Partners’ gender-responsive interventions are strengths-based and trauma-informed for women and girls aged 12-21 years. Specifically, Girls Moving On is one program that has proven successful in helping at-risk and justice-involved females expand their motivation and provide them with new skills and personal resources to prevent criminal activity and increase safety and wellbeing.

One of the priorities of Girls Moving On is drawing on cognitive-behavioral therapy, relational theory, and Motivational Interviewing to help participants increase their capacity for engaging in mutually supportive, empathic, and healthy relationships. By building strong connections, young women have the necessary support to create and realize a new vision for the future. This, too, is a priority of the OJJDP; “When girls are limited in their access to education and treatment, or when their numbers increase in the juvenile justice system relative to boys...we are often not supporting them or providing them with the tools they need to become successful adults.” Girls Moving On can be delivered in community and/or congregate care settings to support a full continuum of care.

Orbis Partners provides solutions for criminal justice and human services systems, specializing in designing and implementing services for at-risk client groups. For more information about our Gender-Responsive Interventions, visit our page by clicking here.

Written by Orbis Partners