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Gender and Juvenile Justice in Missouri

NCJ Number
K Kempf-Leonard; E S L Peterson; L L Sample
Date Published
123 pages
This project drew information from many sources, covered a wide range of issues related to understanding the role of gender in Missouri's juvenile justice system, and specifically examined how females were processed in the juvenile justice system.
Data were gathered on all referrals to Missouri juvenile and family courts between 1992 and 1995. In addition, detailed information was collected on a 3-month sample of all referrals during 1996 from 18 geographically dispersed circuits to measure differences that might be attributable to household composition, family problems, or unique traits of young people. Information was also obtained on juvenile court processing, residential youth facility services, the Missouri Division of Youth Services, and diverse groups of adolescent females. Resulting data were analyzed by sex and court type using logistic regression techniques. Findings revealed that many more males than females were referred to courts for law violations. Gender differences also existed among offense types for which courts intervened. Males dominated among offenses involving serious violence and also had more referrals for serious property crimes, burglary, and property damage. Further, male offenders had a broader range of offense types and more often had multiple charges. Females, however, had higher rates of misdemeanor stealing and third-degree assault. The most common reasons females were brought to court was because they were victims of neglect. Police agencies represented the primary source of all referrals. In terms of status offenses, running away was more common among females than among males and was the most common charge among young people held in prehearing custody and placed out-of-home. Most status offenders were white, more gender equity than disparity was observed in how courts handled juvenile cases, and concern was raised by juvenile and family court personnel about lack of residential bed space for serious juvenile offenders. Juvenile and family court personnel, as well as residential youth facility administrators, said priority areas for developing female- specific programming should include community-based services for status offenders, programs that focus on individual strengths and self-esteem, vocational training, independent living programs, hygiene, prenatal education and other programs for unwed mothers and sexually active females, and sexual abuse treatment. The residential treatment program survey form and supplemental data are appended. 47 references and 59 tables