State Demographics

In 1996, Oregon's youth population under age 18 was approximately 808,400 (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 24 percent of Oregon's children under age 13 were living in low-income families with working parents: 22 percent of children were under 18 years of age (Casey Foundation 1998).

Oregon ranked 27th in the country in terms of teen birth rate for 1996. This same year, the birth rate in the State was approximately 30 births per 1,000 young women ages 15-17 (Casey Foundation 1998).

Overview of the Juvenile Justice System

In Oregon, the Juvenile Court has jurisdiction over juvenile and family-related matters. Therefore, the court has exclusive and original jurisdiction in any case involving a juvenile offender under 18 years of age. The court is presided over by juvenile court judges who are elected officials (Oregon Commission on Children and Families 1994).

In each of Oregon's 36 counties, there are juvenile departments that are supported by county general funds and are part of the county government. These departments are run by Juvenile Department Directors who are responsible, with other staff, for making a full report on every youth brought before the juvenile court. Many county juvenile departments also operate juvenile detention facilities. As of December 1997, 10 of Oregon's 36 counties possessed juvenile detention centers with a total of 323 beds. The other 26 counties contract with neighboring counties for detention space. The Oregon Youth Authority (OYA) is the State agency responsible for the supervision, management, and administration of youth correction facilities, State parole and probation services, community out-of-home placements for youth offenders, and other functions related to State programs for youth corrections. The OYA exercises legal and physical custody over youth offenders between the ages of 12 and 18 who have been committed to the OYA by county juvenile courts. Juvenile court committed youth offenders may remain in OYA's legal custody up to age 25. Juveniles, ages 15-17, who commit crimes for which they have been waived to and convicted in adult court or for which the State's mandatory minimum sentences apply are in the legal custody of the Oregon Department of Corrections (adult corrections) but can be placed in the physical custody of the OYA up to age 25. The OYA provides rehabilitation and treatment programming in a multitiered system of secure custody facilities around the State, which includes seven youth correctional facilities, four work/study camps, a youth accountability camp, and a special program facility in Multonmah County. In addition to secure custody, the OYA provides community-based parole and probation services to youth committed to the OYA for out-of-home placement. Planning is also underway for a work/study camp for young female offenders transitioning from youth correctional facilities to communities. This gender-specific transition program is designed to fill a critical service gap for young women in the OYA's secure custody setting: a setting historically dominated by males because of the nature of their crimes. In recent years, however, the OYA has seen a change in the behavior of troubled adolescent females, who now commit property and person crimes. This program will offer female offenders the same treatment continuum opportunities offered to male offenders (Oregon Commission on Children and Families 1994).

The Formula Grants Program is managed by the Oregon Commission on Children and Families.

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 Oregon:

  • A nine-year arrest trend between 1987 and 1995 shows that the rate at which girls are being arrested in Oregon is growing faster than the rate of arrest for boys. The percentage change of juvenile female arrest rates for total crimes in those nine years was 70.4 percent (Oregon Commission on Children and Families 1997).

  • The arrest rate for index crimes by young women increased 24.1 percent. Yet, proportionately, the number of females in the juvenile justice system and the OYA remained the same between 1987-95, 20 percent and 10 percent respectively (Oregon Commission on Children and Families 1997).

  • Behavioral crimes increased significantly over nine years, which influenced the increase in total crimes (Oregon Commission on Children and Families 1997).

  • Crimes against persons committed by young female offenders increased 100 percent, which reflects a change from 1.4 offenses committed per 1,000 youth to 2.8 offenses committed per 1,000 youth (Oregon Commission on Children and Families 1997).

  • The arrest rate for property crimes committed by young female offenders rose to 22.4 percent (Oregon Commission on Children and Families 1997).

  • Females accounted for 17 percent (1,380) of all youth admitted to detention in 1992 and 19.2 percent in 1993. Also in 1992, young women represented 9 percent (174) of the youth committed (Poe-Yamagata and Butts 1996, p. 19; and Oregon Commission on Children and Families 1994).

Approach to Female Offenders

Oregon is one of only two States in the country that has legislation concerning young women involved and at-risk of involvement in the juvenile justice system. Passed in 1993, this legislation specifically acknowledges that young women often lack, yet are entitled to, equal access to the facilities, services, and treatment available through human services and juvenile corrections programs provided by or funded by the State of Oregon (Oregon Legislative Assembly 1993, p. 1). The legislation calls for any State administrative agency providing services to minors to separately specify, in its annual budget to the Legislative Assembly, the percentages of monies allocated and expended to provide services to both males and females and to identify disparities in the allocation of these monies and services. These State agencies must also develop a plan to implement equal access to appropriate gender-specific services and treatment and to implement the results of this legislation (Oregon Legislative Assembly 1993, p. 1). In 1995, State agencies presented their first report on Equal Access to Services for Girls and Boys in the legislature. Currently, the Department of Human Resources and the Oregon Commission on Children and Families are in the process of refining and completing their 1997 report on equal access to services for the Oregon Legislature.

In 1992, the Oregon Commission on Children and Families issued a grant to the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory to develop and disseminate a collection of interrelated communications and media products designed to better educate the public on the issues related to female offenders. One result of the grant was an informational brochure containing 50 ways to assist girls and young women in one's home community. The Oregon Commission on Children and Families and the Coalition of Advocates for the Equal Access for Girls is collaborating to update and redistribute the "50 Ways to Help Girls and Young Women" brochure.

In 1996, the Oregon Commission on Children and Families continued this effort by using Formula Grants funding to create a training curriculum for all juvenile justice advocates and Children's Commission members. This curriculum and information package, Vision for Collaboration, is designed to educate individuals of the need for and content of gender-specific services and to encourage community planning for alternatives to incarceration for young men and women.

In 1997-98, the Oregon Commission on Children and Families continued this effort using Formula Grants funding to contract for a statewide research project concerning dependent and delinquent female adolescents. The report on Young Women in the Juvenile Justice System in Oregon will be released in the fall of 1998 at a Girls' Summit organized in a partnership between the Commission and the Coalition.

For information on how to receive any of the Oregon materials listed above, please see Appendix B, Available State Products.


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

Equal Access to Services for Girls and Boys, 1995 Report on House Bill 3576. Oregon Department of Human Resources, Salem, OR.

Oregon Commission on Children and Families. 1997. Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee Report to the Governor and Legislature. Salem, OR.

Oregon Legislative Assembly. 1993. House Bill 3576. Portland, OR.

Vision for Collaboration. Spring 1996. Training by Law and Policy Associates through the Oregon Commission on Children and Families. Salem, OR.

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