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Females and Juvenile Justice

Iowa Girls Justice Initiative - Final Report


The Iowa Girls Justice Initiative planning group spent more than a year studying girls who are involved in the juvenile justice system, particularly at its deepest levels.  The result is a report and recommendations intended to advance the effectiveness of the system and ensure that a sufficient level of care exists for the serious, violent and chronic female offender.  In essence, the planning group has emphasized the need for female and culturally responsive approaches that are trauma-informed and developmentally appropriate while addressing criminogenic risk/need factors and public safety.

Executive Summary
Serious, Violent and Chronic Juvenile Female Offenders Report
 

Females and Juvenile Justice

In the United States and Iowa, the juvenile justice system was formed and developed with boys in mind.  Traditionally, the needs of the relatively small population of adolescent girls in the juvenile justice system went unmet as the system strove to provide adequate supervision and appropriate services for adolescent boys.  As a result, girls have largely been expected to fit into an existing structure that is not equipped to meet their specific needs.  As more females became involved with the juvenile justice system, scholars, service providers, policy-makers, youth advocates and juvenile justice system personnel began to recognize that the juvenile justice system and youth programs were not adequately serving adolescent girls.

In the early 1990's, this awareness led to heightened advocacy by state and national organizations to fill the gap.  Programs were designed that took into account the specific emotional, physical and psychological needs of the population being served, in this case girls, based on research into the types of offenses committed, the socioeconomic background and experiences of girls involved with the juvenile justice system and female adolescent development.  Emphasis was placed on designing programs free from gender bias that provided a physically and emotionally safe space for girls.

"Female responsive" in juvenile justice does not only mean programs that serve girls.  Rather, it indicates a comprehensive approach that recognizes and intentionally plans to address the realities of living as a female in our society. It also takes into account how this reality influences their choices and behaviors.

Iowa Task Force for Young Women

The Iowa Task Force for Young Women (ITFYW) was formed in 1995, as a subcommittee of the Juvenile Justice Advisory Council (JJAC).  The JJAC serves as Iowa’s State Advisory Group for administration of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act.  The ITFYW serves to address the issue of females and juvenile justice and to advise the JJAC.  The goal of the ITFYW has been, and continues to be, to facilitate a comprehensive fundamental change in the juvenile justice system that will enhance the understanding and utilization of innovative gender-responsive approaches in all programs and services that serve the adolescent female population of Iowa’s juvenile justice system.

Iowa Girls Justice Initiative

The Iowa Girls Justice Initiative (IGJI) seeks to both develop and coordinate implementation of an innovative, viable and effective plan for services to young women who are involved in the juvenile justice system at the deepest levels.  In doing so, it is hoped that this project will also be able to explore the potential use of innovative, female-responsive approaches at earlier stages of juvenile justice system involvement.

The ITFYW served as the initial core collaborative group for IGJI.  The ITFYW expanded its existing membership to include a broader range of juvenile justice system officials and stakeholders.  The group then began to address the gap in services for this population of young women prompted, in part, by the closure of Iowa’s only state training school for girls in January 2014.  It is the function of the ITFYW, using staff support from CJJP, to facilitate planning using the expertise of its expanded membership in consultation with national experts and using available technical assistance.