District of Columbia

District Demographics

In 1996, the District of Columbia's youth population under age 18 was approximately 109,600 (Casey Foundation 1998).

Of the District's children, approximately 23 percent were living in families with incomes below 50 percent of the poverty level in 1995. Further, it is estimated that in 1995, approximately 24 percent of DC's children under age 13 were living in working-poor families or families where at least one parent was working 50 or more hours a week but the family's income was still below the poverty level (Casey Foundation 1998).

The District of Columbia ranked 51st in the country in terms of teen birth rate for 1995. This same year, the birth rate in the State was approximately 78 births per 1,000 young women ages 15-17. This was up from 53 births per 1,000 young women in 1985 (Casey Foundation 1998).

For 1995, the graduation rate for high schoolers in the District of Columbia was 53 percent. This was down from 56 percent in 1994 and 58 percent in 1993 (Kids Count Collaborative 1996, p. 17).

Overview of the Juvenile Justice System

In the District of Columbia, juvenile law enforcement is handled by the Youth and Family Services Division of the Metropolitan Police Department. Before a petition is filed with the court, however, the Assistant Corporation Counsel conducts a screening and investigation of all cases recommended to the Superior Court. The results of this screening and of a separate process conducted by the Social Services Division of the Superior Court are considered before a placement decision is made. Adjudication of juvenile offenders committing delinquent offenses is then handled by the Family Division of the District of Columbia Superior Court. All cases are heard by judges because there is no right to a jury trial for juvenile offenders (District of Columbia Board of Parole 1994, pp. 1-2).

The Department of Human Services (DHS) is the organization charged with providing appropriate placement options and services for juvenile offenders. To this end, DHS offers a myriad of prevention and intervention services. The District has one secure detention center, Oak Hill (District of Columbia Board of Parole 1994, p. 2).

The District's Formula Grants Program is housed in the Office of Grants Management.

Offense Patterns and Processing of Juvenile Female Offenders

The following statistics give an overview of the information available on female offending and processing patterns in the District of Columbia.

  • In 1993, young women represented approximately 1 percent (752) of all youth arrested. Of these young women, 710 were African-American, 4 were Latina, and 4 were categorized as other (District of Columbia Board of Parole 1994).

  • Young women committed to the juvenile justice system range in age from 12 to 19, and 85 percent are 16 or older (District of Columbia Board of Parole 1994, p. 15).

  • Of the young women coming into the juvenile justice system, 60 percent have sexually transmitted diseases at admission and less than 5 percent are pregnant (District of Columbia Board of Parole 1994, p. 15).

  • In 1992, young women represented 41 percent (150) of the youth admitted to detention. Furthermore, they represented 39 percent (143) of the youth committed (Poe-Yamagata and Butts 1996, p. 19).

Approach to Female Offenders

The District of Columbia's Adolescent Female Initiative involves the sponsoring of a conference on the needs of adolescent females involved in or at risk of involvement in the juvenile justice system. The District's Juvenile Justice Advisory Group and local girl-serving organizations will support the conference. Specifically, Challenge Activity funds will be used for funding training in the following areas:

  • Assisting staff in recognizing their own gender biases.

  • Recognizing client abuse and neglect.

  • Exploring nontraditional concepts for educational programming.

  • Developing programs to address parenting, self-esteem, coping skills, and male/female relationships.

  • Using volunteers.

  • Using mentors for young women.

  • Improving substance abuse assessment, counseling, and prevention services.

  • Enhancing physical and sexual abuse assessment, counseling, and prevention services; and

  • Providing educational services on adolescent health, HIV, AIDS, and sexually transmitted diseases.


Annie E. Casey Foundation. 1998. KIDS COUNT Online Data Service. Annie E. Casey Foundation, Baltimore, MD.

District of Columbia Board of Parole. 1994. District of Columbia Comprehensive Three Year Juvenile Justice State Plan 1994-1996. Submitted to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Washington, DC.

District of Columbia Board of Parole. 1995. District of Columbia 1995 Challenge Activity E Grant Application. Submitted to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Washington, DC.

Kids Count Collaborative for Children and Families. 1996. Every Kid Counts in the District of Columbia: Third Annual Factbook. Kids Count Collaborative for Children and Families, Washington, DC.

Poe-Yamagata, E., and J.A. Butts. 1996. Female Offenders in the Juvenile Justice System: Statistics Summary. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Washington, DC.

Juvenile Female Offenders: A Status of the States Report October 1998