No Place for Youth: Girls in the Adult Justice System
Date:  08-22-2016

Keeping girls safe in an adult prison is just one of the problems
The following report is from the National Institute of Corrections in collaboration with the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

From the introduction:

The bulletin focuses on the population of girls under the age of 18 who are confined to adult facilities in the United States. It provides a summary of current research, incorporates the voices of practitioners, and offers recommendations for improving conditions and outcomes for girls who are sentenced to adult facilities. Data examined for this bulletin include results of a national survey of correctional administrators conducted by the National Institute of Corrections (NIC) and the National Council on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD) in 2014. The NIC/NCCD survey was designed to collect information from members of the Association of State Correctional Administrators (ASCA) about issues and challenges that adult facilities face in serving youth under age 18, with a particular focus on girls. ASCA is a professional organization whose membership consists of current and former administrators of correctional facilities or the correctional system of a jurisdiction. Survey findings are included throughout the bulletin, and results are summarized in the appendix .


Research and information available on the characteristics and experiences of girls in the adult system are limited. However, research shows many similarities between this population and girls in the juvenile justice system, including the following examples:

  • Justice-involved girls have disproportionately high rates of past physical and sexual abuse and trauma (Weemhoff & Staley 2014; Gaarder & Belknap 2002; Wu 2010; Selph 2014) and, as a result, experience high rates of mental and emotional health issues (Wasserman, McReynolds, Schwalbe, Keating, & Jone, 2010; National Prison Rape Elimination Commission 2009; Selph 2014).

  • Justice-involved girls are more likely to be pregnant or parenting than girls in the general population (Office of the Child Advocate 2008; Selph 2014; Listenbee et al. 2012).

  • Justice-involved girls are disproportionately low risk, yet they exhibit a high need for services (e.g., alcohol and drug treatment, mental health counseling, etc.). Their crimes often stem from their need to escape, survive, or cope with difficult or unsafe circumstances (Wu 2010; Gaarder & Belknap 2002).

  • Justice-involved girls are not a homogenous group. A variety of experiences and characteristics, including race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, income level, and immigration status frame their experiences in and out of the justice system.

    Read the entire report here.