Vera Institute of Justice’s Initiative to End Girls’ Incarceration aims towards getting girls, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, gender nonconforming (gender expansive) and youth of color out of confinement by 2029. Juvenile incarceration rates have decreased in recent years; however, many reforms focus on boys in the system and may not be geared to girls and gender expansive youth.
The number of girls in the system has been reduced in recent years to less than 46,000 annually nationwide. According to Vera, the U.S. is primed for change considering the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. Campaigning for accessible justice, safety and freedom for girls and gender expansive youth of color can pave the way for progress.
Many of the girls in the system are there because of unmet needs due to being poor, in foster care and/or a survivor of abuse. Detention facilities are not meant to be places of longevity or solutions for these traumas. Vera argues that there must be a movement to get girls to safety and begin providing the care they need to heal.
The report lays out a 10-year plan to end incarceration of girls:
- Work on targeting the states with the highest incarceration of girls (the Top 8)
- Learn from the states with low incarceration rates
- Devise new plans and models to build a network primed for change
Using the three-step plan is a way to free girls from incarceration and keep them in their communities with support systems. By targeting the Top 8, more than half the girls in incarceration would be released. At the same time, working with the states that have low incarceration rates provides a framework and inspiration for the higher-incarceration states. Partnerships among states, communities and Vera can help promote new ideas to invest in. Working together ensures a collaboration of effort to help end confinement of girls and gender expansive youth of color. The numbers of incarcerated girls is continuing to fall, but Vera aims to get to zero.
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