National Crittenton director of advocacy and communication Sara Kugler published an op-ed today in Juvenile Justice Information Exchange:

“The top three offenses for committed girls — the deepest end of the system, ostensibly for youth with the most serious offenses — are all nonviolent crimes: technical violations, simple assault and status offenses. These nonviolent offenses make up the most serious charges for a full 50 percent of committed girls.

A technical violation is a violation of probation — including failure to pay restitution or missing a mandated curfew. A status offense is a crime based on age — charges like truancy and running away that are only crimes for minors. In 2015, truancy charges accounted for nearly 60 percent of girls’ status offense cases. Girls can be arrested for simple assault as an unintended consequence of mandatory and pro-arrest domestic violence policies.

These are the charges leading girls — and predominantly girls of color — to receive the most serious consequences of the juvenile justice system.

But OJJDP’s new priorities are misaligned with these realities. Administrator Harp has said the agency has been too focused on ‘avoiding arrests at all costs and therapeutic intervention’ and ‘providing services.’ Yet these data show girls getting arrested and moving deeper through the system are not a threat to public safety, and would likely be better served by services and interventions than by expensive and harmful incarceration. This is a view shared by victims of crime, who support serving youth in the community, including young people involved in violent crime.

Continued over-representation of youth of color is a call to action for a strengthened approach to reducing racial and ethnic disparities, not a more ‘simplified’ approach.

Attendees of the webinar made clear where the agency could highlight new priorities in their research and data collection: improving data on Latinx youth, who are counted differently across different data sets; adding data on sexual orientation, and addressing the absence of data on youth who identify as nonbinary.”

Read the rest in Juvenile Justice Information Exchange