Conference Explores How Girls and Boys Experience the Juvenile Justice System and Family Life Differently

A panel discussion at the February 10 conference

The big numbers on juvenile detention in New York City are optimistic: From 2011 to 2015, the number of people younger than 16 who were arrested fell steadily each year.* As a result, the City’s juvenile justice system keeps shrinking.

But in breaking down those big numbers, nuances emerge. In 2015, many girls placed in juvenile detention had been charged with lower-level offenses, such as misdemeanor assault and petit larceny, compared to boys’ charges, which were more likely to involve felonies. Also, a higher percentage of girls’ cases were considered a “family offense,” meaning an alleged assault or other incident involving a family member (24 percent of girls, versus 14 percent of boys).

What this data means for shaping future policy was the topic of New York Law School’s February 10 conference Family, Gender, and Juvenile Justice, hosted by the School’s Impact Center for Public Interest Law and the Children’s Defense Fund-New York.

In two panels and a hypothetical case scenario, leaders from City agencies, representatives from non-profit organizations, and family law experts talked openly about the data, its policy implications, and their own perspectives on how boys and girls experience the juvenile justice system differently.

Several speakers discussed the importance of gender-specific programs targeted to youth in foster care and/or the juvenile justice system. The group also noted that some families of teenagers would benefit from a more accessible form of respite—a safe place that would make it possible for young people and parents to be temporarily separated without a child going into juvenile detention or a parent being subject to an abuse-and-neglect case.

Professors Lisa Grumet and Kim Hawkins worked with Children’s Defense Fund-New York to organize the event. Students Bethanna Abate 3L, Shannon Lashlee 3L, Shante’ Morales 3L, and Jessica Spooner 4L Evening—all affiliated with the Impact Center—were also instrumental.

View event photos here.

*The statistics in this story were presented at the conference by Lindsay Rosenthal and Jennifer Ferone of the Vera Institute.