Why We Need to End Girls’ Incarceration Many girls are arrested for misbehaviors like running away and skipping school. This needs to change.

End Status Offenses Girls Full
What I needed was support, not punishment.

This is still happening to girls today. Although girls are only 25 percent of the overall juvenile justice system, 40 percent of children who are taken to court for status offenses—and 55 percent of children who are taken to court specifically for running away—are girls. In fact, status offenses and technical violations of probation account for 37 percent of girls’ detention admissions. It is important to note that girls’ incarceration is an issue that disproportionately affects girls of color. Today, Black girls, Native American girls, and Latina girls are overrepresented in the justice system compared to their white peers, due to gender stereotypes that are further compounded by race and class.

At Vera, we are working to end girls’ incarceration. In order to achieve this goal, we need to end the use of status offenses entirely. Our recent report, Girls Matter, aims to help systems do just that. Building upon Vera’s Toolkit for Status Offense System ReformGirls Matter empowers stakeholders to analyze how policies and practices may be negatively or differently impacting girls and to address disparities that are missed when systems assessment and reform do not include a targeted gender lens.

What I needed was support, not punishment. My story is only one example of a missed opportunity to stop entry into the justice system altogether—and by ending the use of status offenses, we can close the front door on girls’ incarceration. Vera’s initiative to end girls’ incarceration envisions a society where girls’ strength and resistance is celebrated and not criminalized, and where they receive support rather than punishment for behavioral responses to trauma in their lives. With the resources we provide in Girls Matter, systems can learn how to change the way they respond to girls’ behaviors and begin to put an end to girls’ incarceration.