United States Juvenile Justice System

  • 1.4 million boys and girls 11-17 years old enter the juvenile justice system each year. 
  • 71,000 of these girls and boys enter detention, locked facilities, where they may be held for a hours, days, weeks or months.
  • The number of girls in detention is increasing more rapidly than the numbers of boys proportionately 
  • Today, approximately 1 in 5 juveniles being held in detention nationally are girls. 
  • Girls in detention tend to be younger than detained boys, and are more likely to be held for running away from abusive situations. 
  • Girls often enter detention with unique and sometimes more serious health and mental health needs and are less likely to receive adequate medical screening, assessment, treatment and follow-up.
  • Only 53 of 3,500 juvenile justice residential facilities in the United States have received accreditation for the medical care they provide.
  • Only 18% of these juvenile justice facilities routinely provide pregnancy tests for girls.
  • No standardized gender-specific medical screens are available for use with girls in the juvenile justice system nationally.
  • Due to Federal Law, Medicaid does not pay for the health services girls and boys receive in detention. Consequently, there are no national Medicaid health and safety standards for medically high need detained youth. Girls and boys entering detention have their health insurance suspended or terminated.

A Snapshot of Girls in Detention

Findings from the Girls Health Screen National Validation Study of detained girls in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Santa Cruz and San Diego, California Counties.

  • 41% of girls entering detention had serious allergies to foods, prescription and/or over-the-counter medications. None had EPI pens with them on intake.
  • 11% were exposed to TB in the past year; 8% tested positive for TB and only 4 reported chest x-rays.
  • 22% reported a history of forced sexual contact, and several reported assaults within the past 7 days.
  • 41% had abnormal vaginal examinations possibly due to sexual assault.
  • 60% had been tested for HIV and 1 girl was currently taking HIV medications.
  • 23% had a history of sexually transmitted infections.
  • 20% had been pregnant at least once.
  • 15% had head injuries with loss of consciousness (LOC) in past year.
  • 23% had a history of self-harming behavior and 11% had a history of attempted suicide.
  • 18% had used methamphetamine in the last 3 months.
  • 34% had been sick or overdosed from alcohol or drugs.
  • 9% were intravenous drug users.
  • 11% reported sex with intravenous drug users.
  • 40% needed glasses and only 5 had glasses with them.
  • 36% reported being homeless within the past year.