Female Juvenile Delinquency

In arranging how juvenile delinquents of different genders should be cared for within the juvenile justice system, concessions must be made to account for the fact that young women normally enter prison under very different circumstances than young men.

In September of 2000, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) published research on women and young women in the American Justice System. A steady rise in crime among women since the 1980s spurred the research, which found a firm link between abuse and criminal behavior. An alarming 75 to 95 percent of female juvenile delinquents (age 14 to 18) in the justice system are former victims of abuse. Such abuse often results in a very low sense of self-worth for young women.

The majority of crimes young women commit, according to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), are simple assault and illegal substance abuse. Young women are more likely than young men to commit the status offense of running away and to become involved in prostitution and commercialized vice. The NIJ reported that the average age a young woman becomes involved in prostitution is 14.

Female Juvenile Delinquents – Prevention Programs


One program designed to help female juvenile delinquents is SAGE (Standing Against Global Exploitation). The program is geared toward helping juvenile prostitutes. The youths are placed in a 15-week program that attempts to help them work through psychological, self-esteem, health, and survival issues. They are taught life-skills such as managing finances, and receive job training and housing assistance. Young women are usually referred into the program by police and courts.

Federal Working Group on Gender Issues

The gradual rise in juvenile arrest rates among young women has alarmed law enforcement agencies, and has encouraged cooperation between organizations that work with female youth. A result of recent inter-agency cooperation was the establishment of the Federal Working Group on Gender Issues. Among the agencies represented in the Working Group are the OJJDP, Department of Justice (DOJ), Department of Education (DOE), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and Office of National Drug Control Policy. The Working Group has studied programs that have been effective for females, and generated gender-specific strategies to assist young women.

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