Ending Girls’ Incarceration Is Goal of New Task Force in New York City

New York, NY—The Vera Institute of Justice today launched the Task Force on Ending Girls’ Incarceration in New York City, a new multi-agency task force created in partnership with New York City agencies to address the unique needs of girls in the city’s juvenile justice system. At a time when women’s issues in general are a topic of significant national attention, the task force’s findings will inform similar efforts in other cities and will help to fill a critical gap in reducing youth incarceration nationwide, as strategies for girls have largely been left out of justice reform conversations.

Last year, Vera released a report on the fastest-growing population behind bars—women in jail—as part of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge, an initiative to change the way America thinks about and uses jail. The report documented how virtually all new responses to address growing jail populations are based on research about men in jail, and can have unintended negative consequences for women.

Similarly, in the juvenile system, successful reforms in the past decade have reduced the number of incarcerated youth by half, but the incarceration of girls nationally is falling at a slower rate than that of boys because of a lack of systematic focus on reducing girls’ confinement. Today, girls in the juvenile justice system—who are disproportionately girls of color and/or LGBT/gender non-conforming (GNC)—are still being swept into custody for low-level offenses that pose no risk to public safety

To help shine a much-needed spotlight on girls in the juvenile justice system, all of whom are 16 or younger (under New York State law, 17- and 18-year-old girls are automatically tried as adults), the task force is examining the unique pathways that lead girls and LGBT/GNC youth into the juvenile justice system—such as disparities in school-based arrest—in order to design a comprehensive plan to interrupt those pathways. Because the number of girls in the system is relatively small (about 600 girls enter detention each year) and the vast majority are coming in on low-level, nonviolent charges, these reforms aim to not only reduce but end the incarceration of girls in New York City. The Task Force on Ending Girls’ Incarceration in New York City is supported by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), and lessons learned will be disseminated to other jurisdictions nationwide through OJJDP’s National Girls’ Initiative.

Over the next seven months, the task force will bring together representatives from New York City agencies, community service providers, academia, and national nonprofits. It will also receive support from an advisory group of girls and LGBT/GNC youth who have experience in New York City’s juvenile justice system, as well as from an expert advisory council comprised of key advocates, organizers, and other stakeholders from an array of nonprofit organizations and universities in the city. The members of the Task Force on Ending Girls’ Incarceration are listed in full below.

Statements of Support


“Girls have been largely overlooked in the justice reform field, despite troubling disparities in their rates of incarceration—which are especially felt by girls of color. This initiative to develop effective gender-specific strategies will divert more girls from the justice system and keep them at home with their families. We hope that the ambitious goal of ending girls’ incarceration in New York City will be an important step towards ending the incarceration of all young people.” 

Nicholas Turner, Vera President

“By ending girls’ incarceration, New York City has the opportunity to decisively impact the lives of vulnerable and striving girls. This ambitious work requires both vision and data, which will be delivered by the key partners from across the city, sectors, and the nation whose talents are represented on this task force.”

Kimberlyn Leary, PhDCo-Chair of the Task Force on Ending Girls’ Incarceration in New York City and Associate Professor of Department of Health Policy and Management, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Policy

“It’s my privilege to partner with the members of this task force to end the confinement of girls and young women in New York City. Together we will work to creatively address the systemic conditions that lead to girls’ incarceration.  For too long, these conditions have been unaddressed—we can and must do better.”

Linda Lausell Bryant, PhD, Co-Chair of the Task Force on Ending Girls’ Incarceration in New York City and Clinical Assistant Professor; Director of the Undergraduate Field Learning Program; Katherine and Howard Aibel Visiting Professor and Executive-in-Residence, NYU Silver School of Social Work