Today the juvenile crime rate is in a decline. While the overall rate has lowered in the past few years, juvenile female offenders have been on a constant rise in the United States. This female offending has not yet influenced the focus of policy in the juvenile justice system which is still centered on the male offender. Traditionally, views that males dominated juvenile criminal behavior have had an influence on the public’s perception of youth crime in America. In many areas, female offenders are not provided with equal access to treatment or social services. With the increase of female offenses, an effort must be made to provide better and more readily available treatment to female juvenile delinquents.
Experts on juvenile delinquency must take an account of the nature of the female juvenile offender and start examining preventive measures and policies for the future. While justice policies’ remain focused on the male offender, statistics show that this area of criminal behavior, while still higher than that of female offenders, is actually in a decline.
At the same time that the crime rate for male juvenile offenders is decreasing, the rate for females is on the rise. Using information gathered by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Report, this change in the crime rate can be seen through an analysis of a ten year arrest trend. According to this report the number of males arrested from 1993-2002 decreased by 16 percent. The arrest rates for female juveniles increased by more than 6 percent during this same 10 year interval. The Uniform Crime Report shows that the overall juvenile arrest rate is lowering due to a decrease in male juvenile arrests, but at the same time the female juvenile arrest rate is climbing. Although juvenile justice policies have not changed greatly to provide increased treatment for female offenders, the crime rate for this type of delinquent is on the rise and will continue to grow well into the future.
Female children have traditionally been under represented in the juvenile and correctional populations. Much of the differences in the male and female delinquency rates in the past can be attributed to how they are treated in society at large. Traditionally males were given fewer restrictions than their female counterparts. In modern society however, much of this distinction of privilege has vanished.
Policy changes in the juvenile justice system need to incorporate such factors that add to the tendency of juvenile female to commit criminal acts. Public perceptions of the threat of youth crime have been influenced by media attention to several violent crimes committed by young offenders; however, this perception does not reflect the decrease in the overall juvenile crime rate. Policy focus should be established in response to actual crime rates and aid in providing treatment for the continued increases of young female offenders. Unless this group of offenders is provided with adequate treatment, suitable for their unique needs, this trend in the juvenile crime rate will continue into the future.
With the evident increase in female offenders, including those of violent offenses, juvenile justice organizations must be willing to increase public policy toward the prevention and treatment of the female offender. Policies directed exclusively or mainly for the treatment of male offenders need to open up equal access to social services for female juvenile delinquents.
An assessment of the future of juvenile offending will continue to sway justice policy toward a preventive or retributive system and away from the traditional juvenile system, which focused on rehabilitative measures to help treat juvenile offenders. As this tendency persists, a growing number of female juvenile offenders will get caught in a justice system that is not adequate to provide them with treatment, but only provides harsher punishments.