Girls' Experiences in the System

Report: Girls’ Experiences in the Texas Juvenile Justice System (Oct 2012)

Press Release: Texas Failing Traumatized Girls (Oct 24, 2012)

Half of all youth referred to the Texas juvenile justice system each year have previously experienced a significant traumatic event.  This trauma can cause a youth’s stress response to be over-reactive, leading to delinquent behavior.  In a secure facility, the youth’s over-reactive stress response can lead to discipline problems and deeper system involvement.  In fact, recent research has revealed that a youth’s past experience with trauma is a major predictor – and for girls, the largest predictor – of the youth’s assignment to increasingly serious secure placements in the Texas juvenile justice system.
 
Unfortunately, Girls’ Experiences in the Texas Juvenile Justice System, a new report by TCJC, shows that Texas is failing many of these traumatized children.  Half of the girls interviewed at the Ron Jackson State Juvenile Correctional Complex report that their previous time in county juvenile facilities either did not help or actually did more harm than good for dealing with their past trauma.  Tragically, eight percent report that their time at Ron Jackson is doing more harm than good, suggesting that our juvenile justice system may be re-traumatizing many of these youth.
 
These issues call for a system-wide response.  Many of the experiences that the girls report in these interviews – including negative interactions with staff, severe isolation from family, and youth-on-youth violence – match the experiences that boys in state custody reported in a TCJC survey earlier this year.  As Texas moves forward with reforms to address those concerns, we should increase funding for trauma counseling in the juvenile system, and we should revisit the policies and procedures in our juvenile facilities to respond better to the vulnerabilities and triggers of traumatized youth.

Please click here for the report's key findings and recommendations.