In 1996, New Jersey's youth population under age 18 was approximately 1,987,000 (Casey Foundation 1998).
Of the State's children, approximately 7 percent were living in families with incomes below 50 percent of the poverty level in 1995. Further, it is estimated that in 1995, approximately 11 percent of New Jersey'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).
New Jersey ranked 12th in the country in terms of teen birth rate for 1995. This same year, the birth rate in the State was approximately 29 births per 1,000 young women ages 15-17. This was up from 21 births per 1,000 young women in 1985 (Casey Foundation 1998). In 1995, therewere 38.4 births to teens per every 1,000 teens ages 15-19 (New Jersey Association for Children 1995, p. 3).
Overview of the Juvenile Justice System
The specific process of juvenile justice in New Jersey is dictated by individual approaches taken by New Jersey's 21 counties (New Jersey Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Unit 1997, p. 5). Most juvenile offender cases are handled by county Family Parts of Superior Courts. Juvenile Family Crisis Intervention Units also exist in every county in New Jersey. These organizations are responsible for providing services to youth and families in crisis. Services can address problems of truancy, conflict between parents and youth, and issues around youth running away (New Jersey Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Unit 1997, pp. 8-9).
The Juvenile Justice Commission is the agency in the State that is responsible for providing appropriate placements and services for juvenile offenders committed to the State. Specifically, the Commission operates and provides services through three secure juvenile correctional facilities, a network of eight day programs, thirteen residential treatment programs, and the Stabilization and Reintegration Program (boot camp). Of these programs, there is one secure juvenile correctional facility, one residential group home, and one day program for juvenile female offenders. Probation is a State function, which is operated on a county basis under the Administrative Office of the Courts. Finally, detention services are also available for juveniles, age 11 or older, who are in need of temporary placement awaiting court processing (New Jersey Juvenile Justice and Prevention Unit 1997, p. 12).
The Formula Grants Program is housed in the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Unit of the Juvenile Justice Commission.
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 New Jersey:
Table 14. New Jersey Top 10 Offenses for Young Women, 1995Approach to Female Offenders
New Jersey's efforts to address the needs of juvenile female offenders began in May 1995, when the State Advisory Group, the Governor's Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (JJDP) Committee, received training on gender-specific services at their new member retreat. CRA provided this training through the OJJDP's technical assistance program. As a result of the training, the JJDP Committee decided to establish a subcommittee to develop recommendations for improving policies and programming for young women in New Jersey's juvenile justice system. This committee, officially established in June 1995, is still in operation in the State (New Jersey Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Unit 1997, p. 20).
CRA again provided training, through OJJDP, to members of the newly formed Ad Hoc Subcommittee on Gender-Specific Services in the fall of 1995. Since that time, the subcommittee applied for and received funds under OJJDP's Challenge Activity E program (New Jersey Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Unit 1997, p. 24).
In March 1997, New Jersey used Challenge Activity E monies to fund a statewide conference designed to educate juvenile justice practitioners and community volunteers about the need for and content of services for young women. The conference, "A Celebration of Womanhood," featured sessions on body image, stereotypes, peer mediation, nontraditional careers for girls and women, and workshops on specific program models existing in the State. Approximately 250 individuals, including young girls, from across the State participated (New Jersey Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Unit 1997).
In October 1997, a two-day training on gender-specific services was provided by CRA to staff from the Juvenile Justice Commission's (JCC) female facilities and programs. More than 40 people, including educational, social services, clerical, and administrative staff participated in the training. As a result of the training and the follow-up technical assistance report, JCC has developed an action plan to address the recommendations in the CRA report (New Jersey Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Unit 1997).
In the fall of 1997, a one-day gender-specific services training was provided to parents, educators, and service providers at three different sites across the State. Topics addressed at the training included gender power and violence, sustaining self-esteem, relationships, sexual harassment, HIV/AIDS, and teen-parent communication (New Jersey Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Unit 1998).
In March 1998, "A Celebration of Womanhood II" was hosted by the JJDP Committee (State Advisory Group) for 260 teen girls and their sponsors. Workshop topics for the girls included health issues, sexuality, spirituality, cultural diversity, mother/daughter relationships, and teens overcoming difficulty (New Jersey Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Unit 1998).
OJJDP Challenge Grant funds have been used to develop public information/ awareness materials to increase awareness of the unique needs of girls and to encourage girls to achieve all that they can. Campaign products include a poster, pamphlets, a video, radio and television Public Service Announcements (PSAs), and a web site (Njgirls.org)(New Jersey Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Unit 1998).
Annie E. Casey Foundation. 1998. KIDS COUNT Online Data Service. Annie E. Casey Foundation, Baltimore, MD.
New Jersey Association for Children. 1995. Kids Count New Jersey 1995. Newark, NJ.
New Jersey Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Committee. 1997. Celebration of Womanhood Conference Information. Newark, NJ.
New Jersey Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Unit. 1997. New Jersey Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Three Year Plan. Submitted to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Washington, DC.
New Jersey Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Unit. 1998. Three Year Plan Update. 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.