Girls Are Growing Proportion of Juvenile Arrests, Frequently Locked Up for Minor Offenses

Girls make up a larger proportion of juvenile arrests than ever before, and are far more frequently locked up for low-level offenses than boys, according to a research bulletin published recently by the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP).

The number of youth getting arrested has continued a two-decade decline. The number of arrested boys declined from a high of more than 2 million in 1996 to less than 750,000 in 2015, the latest year for which data is available. The number of arrested girls declined from roughly 600,000 to slightly more than 250,000 over the same time period.

Girls now represent a much bigger part of that smaller pie, according to OJJDP data. Nearly one-third of juveniles arrested between 2010 and 2015 were girls; in 1995, it was about 20 percent.

Courts appear to be quicker to incarcerate girls for minor offenses than their male counterparts. In 2015, 37 percent of girls detained before trial and 34 percent of girls sentenced to juvenile confinement received that punishment for either a violation of probation or a status offense, acts like truancy or running away, which are only considered legal violations when juveniles commit them.

By comparison, only 23 percent of the detained males and 19 percent of confined males were there for violations or status offenses.

Federal juvenile justice standards prohibit the incarceration of juveniles for status offenses, unless the youth has been court ordered not to commit those offenses. An ongoing attempt to reauthorize those standards, which are part of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, would phase out the exception for court orders and flatly ban the use of confinement for status offense violations.

Click here to read the bulletin.

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John Kelly, Editor in Chief, The Chronicle of Social Change
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John Kelly is editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change. Reach him at