American Judges Association


Date of this Version



Court Review, Volume 46, Issue 1-2, 30-35


Copyright © 2010 American Judges Association. Used by permission.


Adolescent girls comprise nearly a third of juvenile arrests, and rates of incarceration among adolescent females have been rising rapidly. Yet, young women continue to be a neglected population in juvenile justice research and service delivery. While there has been an increased focus on addressing the unique mental health needs of girls in the juvenile justice system, very little attention has been paid to the medical and physical health challenges that these young women face. The failure to prioritize and understand the physical health needs of female juvenile offenders is important as the Department of Juvenile Justice has a moral and legal obligation to provide for the medical needs of adolescents in their care. Organizations such as Physicians for Human Rights have also become invested in this issue, citing the need to monitor the health crisis that is occurring within the walls of U.S. Detention Centers as large numbers of already marginalized and under-serviced adolescents enter these contexts. In particular, this advocacy group has emphasized the need to develop gender-specific practices to protect the endangered health and human rights of female adolescents in custody. Unfortunately, responses to this health crisis have been thwarted by the historical neglect of girls as a relevant population in juvenile justice research. As a result, we are just beginning to piece together basic descriptive information documenting the scope of medical and physical health problems among these young women.