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11

Data Snapshot 2016

Juvenile Justice

Nationally, Black girls are referred to the juvenile court 3 times more often than White girls, but

Black girls in Allegheny County are referred to the juvenile court at a rate 11 times that of

White girls

.

20,21,22

At the same time, Black girls in Allegheny County are less likely than White

girls to be diverted from formal processing in the juvenile justice system (40% vs. 47%).

23

Overall, girls’ rates of involvement with the juvenile justice system have increased over the past

30 years, for girls of all racial/ethnic groups, with a modest decline since 2008. While this has

been misunderstood to mean that girls are becoming more violent, there is an extensive body

of research that has demonstrated that these overall increases have been the result of changing

policies and practices, such as “zero tolerance” policies, the increased presence of police in

schools, and the unintended consequences of domestic violence mandatory arrest policies,

rather than of any real change in girls’ actual behaviors.

24

Many “delinquent” behaviors are normal adolescent behaviors, but

racism, sexism, poverty, and living

in a low-income neighborhood

make some young people more likely to come to the attention of police

and system officials than others.

Allegheny County juvenile court

referral rates per 1000 girls

ages 10-17

Violent

offenses

Drug

offenses

Non-payment

of fines

0

5

10

15

20

Black Girls

White Girls

20

Allegheny County Juvenile Probation. (2016).

2015 Allegheny County Juvenile Probation Annual Report.

Pittsburgh, PA.

21

Hockenberry, S., & Puzzanchera, C. (2015).

Juvenile Court Statistics 2013

. Pittsburgh, PA: National Center for Juvenile Justice.

22

Puzzanchera, C., Sladky, A. & Kang, W. (2015). “Easy Access to Juvenile Populations: 1990-2014.”

23

Allegheny County Juvenile Probation. (2016). Youth active in Allegheny County JPO. Pittsburgh, PA.

24

E.g., Chesney-Lind & Irwin, 2008; Chesney-Lind & Paramore, 2001; Goodkind, Wallace, et al., 2009; Luke, 2008; Steffensmeier, et al.,

2005; Zahn, et al., 2008.

25

Allegheny County Juvenile Probation. (2016).

2015 Allegheny County Juvenile Probation Annual Report

. Pittsburgh, PA.

26

Chesney-Lind, M., & Shelden, R. G. (2014).

Girls, Delinquency, and Juvenile Justice

(4th edition). West Sussex, UK: Wiley Blackwell.

Approximately one-third of juvenile court

referrals for Black girls in Allegheny County

are for assault.

25

Yet a deeper examination

reveals that many of these fights are

attempts to protect themselves

. Over two-

thirds of girls in the juvenile justice system

have experienced some type of abuse.

26

In

the Healthy Allegheny Teen Survey, 18% of

Black girls and 9% of White girls reported

being involved in a physical fight in the past

year, suggesting that Black girls are twice as

likely as White girls to engage in fighting.

Yet Black girls are 13 times as likely as White

girls to be referred to the juvenile court

for simple assault and 14 times as likely for

aggravated assault

.