In June, Representative Rosa DeLauro introduced a new bill, entitled “Improving the Juvenile Justice System for Girls Act of 2016.” The law aims to decrease the number of girls who experience trauma while incarcerated by authorizing grants for the implementation of gender-responsive services in the juvenile justice system. The bill is currently before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.
House Bill 5512
The bill is based on the results of recent research, which indicate that girls, at 30 percent of the population, are among the fastest growing segment of the juvenile justice system population. Data also revealed that young females account for a larger proportion of nonviolent status offenders and are on average, younger than boys when they enter the system. Further evidence suggests that incarcerated female youths have equal, and perhaps even higher rates of mental health problems than do boys in the system. However, current research also demonstrates that gender-responsive, strength-based programming focused on providing trauma-informed care and services is one of the most effective means of preventing juvenile offenses.
The new law would provide funding for the implementation of gender-responsive services, which are defined as practices that:
- Comprehensively address the unique emotional, physical, behavioral, and mental health needs of incarcerated female youths through development programs, treatment, and counseling;
- Are implemented by carefully trained and selected staff;
- Reflect the need for interventions that address physical, emotional, and sexual abuse as well as substance abuse and family relationships;
- Include counseling on the increased risk of unplanned pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases;
- Require an understanding of the social and cultural factors affecting females in the juvenile justice system; and
- Include evidence and research-based trauma intervention.
Trauma-informed services are further defined as those programs that:
- Address the neurological, biological, and psychological effects of traumatic stress;
- Provide youth, staff, and family members with resources to help them understand the impact of trauma;
- Provide interventions to address any post-traumatic effects;
- Reflect an understanding of post-traumatic triggers;
- Provide support to individuals who have undergone traumatic experiences;
- Engage in efforts to strengthen the resilience of trauma victims;
- Emphasize collaboration between staff and families;
- Screen for signs of trauma or stress; and
- Assess and treat trauma victims through collaboration with a specially trained and qualified mental health provider.
Contact an Experienced Juvenile Defense Lawyer Today
If passed, the new law could help decrease the rate of recidivism in female youths. Unfortunately, the bill is still before a committee and no broad-based programs currently exist that can help counter the increasing number of young girls and women flooding the criminal justice system. If you or your child were recently charged with a crime, it is important to retain the services of an experienced attorney who can help explain your legal options while remaining sensitive to the needs of both female and male youths. Please contacr Ford Law by calling 404-373-9881 and we will have a member of our dedicated legal team help you set-up a consultation.