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How Girls of Color are Abused by the Criminal Justice System

The Sex-Abuse-to-Prison Pipeline: How Girls of Color Are Unjustly Arrested and Incarcerated

My organization, the Human Rights Project for Girls, along with the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality and the Ms. Foundation for Women, just released “The Sexual Abuse to Prison Pipeline: The Girls’ Story”, a report that exposes how girls, specifically girls of color, are arrested and incarcerated as a result of sexual abuse.

One in 3 juveniles arrested is a girl. Girls tend to be arrested at younger ages than boys, usually entering the system at age 13 or 14. And while girls are only 14 percent of incarcerated youths, they make up the fastest-growing segment of the juvenile-justice system.

Sexual abuse is one of the primary predictors of girls’ detention. Girls are rarely arrested for violent crimes. They are arrested for nonviolent behaviors that are correlative with enduring and escaping from abusive environments—offenses such as truancy and running away. Many girls run away from abusive homes or foster-care placements, only to then be arrested for the status offense of running away. Whereas abused women are told to run from their batterers, when girls run from abuse, they are locked up.

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