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Conference focuses on issues facing female juvenile offenders.

On Nov. 3-5, 1994, ACA's Juvenile Projects staff conducted a female juvenile offenders conference in Chicago. More than 100 people attended the conference, with representatives from 31 states and the District of Columbia.

Welcoming speeches were made by James A. Goodles, Jr., executive director of ACA; Emily C. Martin, director of the training and technical assistance division of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP); Joanne G. Perkins, deputy director of the Juvenile Division of the Illinois Department of Corrections; and Jesse W. Doyle, superintendent of the Cook County (Ill.) Juvenile Temporary Detention Center.

A workshop titled "Understanding Juvenile Female Offenders: There Is a Difference" was presented on the opening day of the conference by Linda Albrecht, an independent juvenile justice consultant, and Ilene Bergsmann, assistant superintendent for the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center. Some statistics of note presented by Bergsmann are:

* Girls' involvement in criminal activity appears to be on the increase. According to data reported in the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports, the number of girls arrested in the past decade has risen 17 percent.

* Girls are entering the justice system at younger ages. The National Center for Juvenile Justice's 1987-1991 data indicate that there was a 10 percent increase in the number of 13- and 14-year-olds coming into juvenile court.

* Minorities are being disproportionally detained. Using data collected from courts around the country, the percent of Caucasian young women detained over the past five years has remained steady at 19 percent, while the number of African American young women detained during that same period increased from 17 percent to 22 percent.

* National statistics indicate as many as 8 million girls are sexually abused before the age of 18. According to a wide range of studies, between 40 percent and 73 percent of female juvenile offenders are physically or sexually abused.

Other workshops covered issues such as the special medical needs of female juvenile offenders, the need for gender-specific educational and vocational programs, mental health needs of female juvenile offenders and ways to help move girls from being victims to survivors of physical and sexual abuse. The conference also gave participants the opportunity to learn how states are helping to improve the lives of their state's female juvenile offenders. Representatives from Maryland, Minnesota and Oregon discussed their various programs, activities and initiatives that are being implemented.

One of the most memorable and moving moments occurred on the second day of the conference, during the Girls Panel. Seven girls from local juvenile programs who had volunteered to be part of the discussion panel spoke about the circumstances and environment in which they grew up. The stories were heart-wrenching. Some girls had suffered physical and sexual abuse from family members or had prostituted themselves for money to buy drugs. Others had joined gangs and physically harmed others. At the conclusion of the panel discussion, the girls spoke about their plans for the future. Several expressed a desire to become counselors to help other girls survive the same conditions they had lived through.

The final day of the conference began with a presentation on the National Girls' Caucus, whose purpose is to focus attention on the unique needs of girls and young women who are involved or at risk of involvement in the juvenile justice system. This led to a discussion by the National Institute 'of Corrections' National Academy of Corrections of upcoming training workshops for practitioners working with female juvenile offenders.

The conference ended with the OJJDP's highlighting its gender-specific and technical assistance funding initiatives and future plans for discretionary funds for female juvenile offenders.

Based on written evaluations, participants were pleased with the conference and appreciated receiving the most up-to-date information on female juvenile offenders.

Judith R. Campbell is the assistant grant administrator in ACA's Training and Contracts Department. A monograph will be developed summarizing the information presented at the conference. For a free copy, contact either Ms. Campbell or Aggie Nestor at (301) 206-5045.
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Title Annotation:American Correctional Association's conference on female juvenile offenders
Author:Campbell, Judith
Publication:Corrections Today
Date:Feb 1, 1995
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