In 1996, Mississippi's youth population under age 18 was approximately 756,100 (Casey Foundation 1998).
Of the State's children, approximately 17 percent were living in families with incomes below 50 percent of the poverty level in 1995. Further, it is estimated that in 1995, approximately 35 percent of Mississippi'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).
Mississippi ranked 50th in the country in terms of teen birth rate for 1995. This same year, the birth rate in the State was approximately 58 births per 1,000 young women ages 15-17. This was up from 54 births per 1,000 young women in 1985 (Casey Foundation 1998). Between 1985 and 1990, the percentage of all births to single adolescent mothers in Mississippi increased by 1.6 percent (Mississippi Division of Public Safety Planning 1994, p. 33). Finally, for 1994, approximately 17.6 percent (7,383) of Mississippi's births were to unmarried teens (Kids Count Mississippi 1995, p. 16).
In 1995, Mississippi was 28th in the country in terms of the percentage of youth, ages 16-19, who became high school dropouts. For 1994, the Department of Education shows that 75.5 percent of Mississippi's seniors graduated from high school (Kids Count Mississippi 1995, p. 24).
Overview of the Juvenile Justice System
In Mississippi, there is a youth court in every county of the State where all cases involving juvenile offenders under 18 years of age and not in the military are heard. However, the judicial level at which this youth court exists varies from county to county, often being a family court or perhaps a county court. In all counties, the family, county, and chancery court judges are elected officials (Mississippi Division of Public Safety Planning 1994, p. 24).
It is the State Division of Youth Services (DYS) that bears responsibility for public safety and providing appropriate placements and services for juvenile offenders in the State. To this end, DYS operates a myriad of prevention and intervention services for youth, and the Institutional Section of DYS runs three correctional centers for adjudicated juvenile delinquents who are committed to DYS (Mississippi Division of Public Safety Planning 1994, p. 25).
The State's Formula Grants Program is housed in the Division of Public Safety Planning, part of the State Department of Public Safety.
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 Mississippi:
Table 13. Mississippi Top Five Offenses for Court Disposition, 1992Approach to Female Offenders
Using Challenge Activity E funds, Mississippi's Division of Youth Services has begun a project designed to enhance and expand community-based services for females and to develop and adopt policies to prohibit gender bias in all treatment, education, and other services.
The State has created a committee to organize the State's approach and to develop specific State policies to prohibit gender bias in the its juvenile justice system. To this end, the committee will be examining current State policies and assessing the effectiveness of the current service delivery system. Currently, the Department of Human Services, the Department of Mental Health, the Department of Public Health, and the Department of Education all have representatives on the planning committee. Also represented are parents, female offenders, law enforcement offices, and the judiciary.
Finally, the State has also designed a pilot project in Jackson/Hinds County, which will be providing crisis intervention, case management, and aftercare services to approximately 92 juvenile female offenders (Mississippi Division of Public Safety Planning 1995, p. 1).
Annie E. Casey Foundation. 1998. KIDS COUNT Online Data Service. Annie E. Casey Foundation, Baltimore, MD.
Kids Count Mississippi. 1995. Deepest Spring in the Heart: Volume 2. Jackson, MS.
Mississippi Division of Public Safety Planning, Department of Public Safety. 1994. Mississippi Application for 1994-1996 Formula Grant Program under the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act. Submitted to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Washington, DC.
Mississippi Division of Public Safety Planning, Department of Public Safety. 1995. Mississippi Challenge Activity E Program Summary. Submitted to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 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.