Frequently Asked Questions
- What is Girls Court?
- Why have a Girls Court?
- Does the Girls Court work?
- Is Hawai`i Unique When It Comes to Girls?
- What Can I Do in My Jurisdiction?
What is Girls Court?
Why have a Girls Court?
Nationally, the proportion of female juvenile arrestees has doubled since 1975. Female involvement in the United States juvenile justice system has emerged as a significant trend over the past three decades (Budnick and Shield-Fletcher 1998). In 1975, girls accounted for 15% of all juvenile arrests. In 1990, they represented 19% and by 2004, they comprised nearly 30% (Steffensmeier 1993; FBI 2005).
In Hawai`i, female juvenile arrest trends are even more pronounced, with a significantly higher proportion of arrests of girls than the national average. In 2003, females accounted for 41% of the total juvenile arrests on Oahu, an increase of 7.4% from the 33.7% recorded in 1991 (Department of the Attorney General, 2003). When compared to the national average, Hawai`i’s female juvenile arrest rate is approximately 12% higher (41% versus 29% nationally).
The Hawai`i State Judiciary’s innovative and effective effort to stem the rising tide of female delinquency is the Hawai`i Girls Court. Initiated in September 2004, the Girls Court has been a “laboratory court” to develop and expand gender-specific programming that address the special needs of adolescent girls in the juvenile justice system. Girls Court focuses on the differing needs of adolescent females who, although appearing before the court as an offender, are most often victims of physical or sexual abuse or domestic violence themselves. Girls Court works on a strength-based model to develop healthy relationships among the girls and their families, return the girls to school or appropriate educational placement, and introduce the girls to employment education and other opportunities in the community. Girls Court holds girls accountable for their actions while working to develop healthy productive lifestyles for the girls and their families.
Does the Girls Court work?
Yes. The Hawai`i Girls Court has been extremely successful in reducing recidivism, decreasing runaways, reintegrating girls into society, and also building family relationships.
The Hawai`i Girls Court has reduced recidivism by 47.08%, which included a 60.00% reduction in the number of runaways, and a 62.60% reduction in arrests. Notably, the girls, during and after their participation in Girls Court, spent 73.24% fewer days on runaway.
Significant efforts have been made toward using less restrictive non-secure shelter facilities rather than secure detention. The Girls Court participant girls have been admitted to the Judiciary’s secure Detention Home facility 16.00% less than during the comparison period and has spent 27.78% fewer days in secure confinement.
Finding alternatives to using secure confinement such as the Detention Home has positively impacted the girls. One participant noted that the Girls Court is:
“probably better than all the other stuff, .... It really did more instead of just, like throwing me into DH [Detention Home] and stuff like that. They went deeper. And so that’s a good thing.”
Other positives include Girls Court participants earning their General Equivalency Diploma, (GED), continuing their education at the community colleges, maintaining employment, and returning to Girls Court to mentor other girls.
In a focus group conducted by Program Evaluator, Lisa Pasko and Consultant Meda Chesney-Lind, parents of Girls Court participants noted that they benefited from the improved communication and consistency of having the same judge, and Girls Court facilitated better relationships between them and their daughters.
Is Hawai`i Unique When It Comes to Girls?
No. Hawai`i has a higher rate of female adolescent arrests, but the problems our girls face are exactly the same as in the continental United States.
“…Girls are at the intersection of numerous social systems such as public health, human services, criminal and juvenile justice, housing, education, employment, and treatment services.
The degree to which girls’ gender and cultural needs are recognized, acknowledged and met in these systems can either interrupt or perpetuate the intergenerational cycle of crime, poverty, chemical dependency, and abuse.” Minnesota Action Plan for Female Offenders Report, 2002
What Can I Do in My Jurisdiction?
Please visit our 'Resources' page. Additionally, there are insightful publications on the internet that describe the problem and lead you to ideas about programming. Begin a discussion both in your court and in your community about the lack of adequate services for girls. Work with area funding sources, grant makers and your court administrators and state and county legislators.