About 80 percent of girls accused of misdemeanors in Maryland were committed to residential treatment centers compared to 50 percent of boys, according to statistics from Maryland’s Department of Juvenile Services (DJS).
The statistics, part of the Female Offenders Report, show more than two-thirds of girls sent to residential treatment centers were committed for offenses such as fighting and shoplifting or for drug offenses.
“That disparity between boys and girls is troubling and quite large," Juvenile Services Secretary Sam Abed told Capital News Service. "It's something I'm concerned about. It's a very complicated question, but it's something that merits explanation.”
The Maryland Legislature in 2011 passed a law requiring DJS to provide statistics breaking down services for boys and girls. Lawmakers grew concerned because DJS has the authority to make decisions about how youth committed to the juvenile justice system are treated.
"I was concerned to learn that there were a lot more opportunities available for boys in the juvenile facilities than for girls," said state Sen. Jamie Raskin, the Montgomery County Democrat who sponsored the bill that resulted in the Female Offenders Report.
The report also found 45 percent of committed girls in the system had a history of physical or sexual abuse.
A spokesperson said DJS is aware of the disparity and is exploring additional options for girls, including some community-based options, according to Capital News Service.