Before the passage of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (JJDP) Act (42 U.S.C. 5601 et. seq.) in 1974, separate programs were implemented to make sure the needs of the juvenile female offender were considered; however, after the passing of the JJDP Act, specific policies began to affect the way the juvenile court approached and processed this population. At first, the effects were not specific. In recent years, however, in combination with Federal programs, Congress has taken more steps to ensure this population is represented appropriately. Hardly any attention has been paid to females who commit crimes and misbehavior because it has been considered mainly as the activities of boys.
In fact, most people equated delinquency and gang activity as strictly male pursuits. Females were considered as either tomboys or sex objects.

In the 1970s, violent girls began receiving more attention because of the apparent increase in their being involved in offenses and the involvement of more women in research. Most of the work focused on explaining why so few girls and women take part in criminal activity compared to males rather than their motivation toward criminal activities and law-breaking.

The research for this report was conducted by reviewing the works of those researchers and scholars who have studied female crime, both juvenile and have conducted the most widespread and far-reaching literature reviews on young women’s crime and delinquency.

Juvenile Justice

While not researching only on violent girls, their research on girls in trouble with the law provides much new information for this difficult issue. They estimated the existing programs’ effectiveness with at-risk young women, suggesting that they have some common elements that combine in a very sensitive approach to support girls in all phases of their lives.

While counseling is effective, it must be part of a complete program addressing the numerous needs of offenders and delinquent young women, covering sympathetically such areas as sexual abuse and violence in teen affairs. Programs also need to include educational and occupational support and skill building. They also must help to provide for the many needs of young women unable to live with their families.

Finally, girls need access to caring adults, involvement in organized community activities, and other protective environments to help them become healthy and fruitful women.

The main difference between female and male offenders is their emotional relationships with their children. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that in 1997, 65 percent of the women in state prisons and 59 percent of the women in federal prisons had minor children. Most of them were single mothers with at least two children. About two-thirds of women in state prisons and one-half of women in federal prisons were living with their young children before their arrests.