Girls Matter: Centering Gender in Status Offense Reform Efforts

Vera Institute of Justice LogoThis guide from the Vera Institute of Justice examines how gender can profoundly shape the circumstances leading girls and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and gender nonconforming (LGB/TGNC) children into court and the juvenile justice system for status offenses (which are offenses that are only illegal for children under the age of 18 and include skipping school, running away, disobeying authority, and violating curfew). Status offenses can set off a range of harsh consequences, beginning with an arrest and ending with probation, detention stays, or even time in a juvenile correctional facility. An awareness of gender can help explain how and why girls specifically behave in different ways and what, if any, misperceptions of girls’ behavior—rooted in race and/or gender biases—may exist among system actors or within girls’ families. The report seeks to empower stakeholders to analyze how policies and practices may be negatively or differently impacting girls and to address disparities that are missed when systems assessment and reform do not include a targeted gender lens.