Professor Reports On Young Women In The Justice System

A recent report about juvenile females in the justice system, “Gender Injustice,” was written by Boston College Law professor Francine Sherman, BC ’80, and Annie Balck, an independent policy consultant, in partnership with the National Crittenton Foundation and National Women’s Law Center. The report explores how girls in the justice system have adverse experiences—including violence, abuse, and deprivation—in many facets of their lives. The report concludes that the juvenile justice system should be redesigned to help these young women.

At BC, Sherman has been teaching Juvenile Justice and Children’s Rights and Public Policy for over two decades. She also founded and directs the Juvenile Rights Advocacy Program, where Balck was a student attorney.

The report describes how girls are pushed through the justice system, the ways systems in place fail to help the girls, and the need to focus on trauma and inequality. In addition, the report emphasizes why a developmental approach to reform the system would benefit the girls as well as public safety.

In the report’s conclusion, the authors write that for young women, “gender justice” means that girls’ needs are met in a fair and balanced way in the juvenile reform system. Since girls’ behaviors are often the direct result of traumatic societal actions, they write, efforts ought to be focused on girls so that the system can be reformed to promote healthy relationships and give girls agency.

“There are all of these opportunities that are not expensive, that are really at the fingertips of systems right now, and need to be taken advantage of in this new kind of era of justice reform,” Sherman said to The Guardian. “We have this great opportunity right now, as systems are scaling up reform, to get it right.”

Featured Image Courtesy of The National Crittenton Foundation

September 30, 2015