United States: Study Finds Link Between Physical and Sexual Violence and the Incarceration of Girls

new study has found a strong correlation between sexual and physical abuse and the incarceration of teen-age girls for non-violent “status” offenses such as loitering, truancy, running away, and other acts that are only illegal if committed by a minor. According to the study, published by the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality, a majority of girls in juvenile detention in most U.S. states have suffered physical or sexual violence. In several states, the rate of abuse among incarcerated teen-age girls is over 80%. While girls make up a small percentage of all detained juveniles (16%), they represent a much larger share of juveniles imprisoned for status offenses (40%). The study’s authors note that the behaviors associated with status offenses are also “among the most common symptoms of childhood abuse.” 
Courts often justify the incarceration of girls for non-violent offenses by arguing that juvenile detention centers provide girls with rehabilitative services. However, incarceration may cause further psychological harm and many detention centers fail to provide mental health services. This year, the U.S. Congress may consider amendments to the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Protection Act (JJDPA) that would improve health services at juvenile detention centers and promote alternatives to incarceration for non-violent juveniles.
Compiled from: Levitz, Eric, The sexual abuse to prison pipeline, MSNBC (July 9, 2015).