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Disparity in Treatment of Girls, Boys by Maryland Department of Juvenile Services

About 80 percent of girls accused of misdemeanors in Maryland were committed to residential treatment centers compared to 50 percent of boys, according to statistics from Maryland’s Department of Juvenile Services (DJS).

The statistics, part of the Female Offenders Report, show more than two-thirds of girls sent to residential treatment centers were committed for offenses such as fighting and shoplifting or for drug offenses.

“That disparity between boys and girls is troubling and quite large," Juvenile Services Secretary Sam Abed told Capital News Service. "It's something I'm concerned about. It's a very complicated question, but it's something that merits explanation.”

The Maryland Legislature in 2011 passed a law requiring DJS to provide statistics breaking down services for boys and girls. Lawmakers grew concerned because DJS has the authority to make decisions about how youth committed to the juvenile justice system are treated.

"I was concerned to learn that there were a lot more opportunities available for boys in the juvenile facilities than for girls," said state Sen. Jamie Raskin, the Montgomery County Democrat who sponsored the bill that resulted in the Female Offenders Report.

The report also found 45 percent of committed girls in the system had a history of physical or sexual abuse.

A spokesperson said DJS is aware of the disparity and is exploring additional options for girls, including some community-based options, according to Capital News Service.

States Respond to Budget Shortfalls with Hodgepodge of Juvenile Justice Cuts

Around the nation, states continue to grapple with the reality of budget shortfalls with a hodgepodge of cuts to various programs, including juvenile justice.

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North Carolina’s Department of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention is being forced to cut spending by 10 percent while eliminating roughly 275 positions, a 15 percent decrease in work force, under the new FY 2012 budget.

Also gone are 75 beds from the state’s seven youth development centers, raising concerns that serious offenders may end up back on the streets to make room for new juveniles entering the facilities.

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Alabama’s Department of Child Abuse & Neglect Prevention has a FY 2012 budget a little more than half that of FY 2011. The department saw a 74 percent drop in general state funding and significant cuts from the federal-level.

“I don’t see the system being able to recover in my working lifetime,” said DCANP Director Kelly Parris-Barnes. “When you take the community level programs out you don’t have the capacity at the state level to do it.”

Not a direct service provider themselves, the DCANP allocates funds for community-based programs around the state. Of the 174 programs the department funded in FY 2011, just 101 are slated for FY 2012, according to Deputy Director Greg Smith.

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On the surface, Idaho’s Department of Juvenile Corrections has seen an increase in funding heading into FY 2011-2012. The budget has increased, said Chief Fiscal Officer Scott Johnson, but the department also absorbed the now defunct Office of Drug Policy.

“The impact is huge,” Johnson said. “All we got was the money. We didn’t get any additional personnel for managing a $4 million program. We’re basically having to design a substance abuse program from the ground up.”

Overall the department saw a $1.1 million decrease in its operating budget, but has largely been able to offset the shortfall due to cost-cutting measures and a decrease in state population.

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Maryland added $3.2 million to its Department of Juvenile Services for FY 2012, but the increase is expected to restore employee furlough days, according to a budget analysis outlined by Youth Today. The department still expects to see a reduction in evidence-based services.

Down 12 percent since FY 2011, Louisiana’s Department of Youth Services has seen more than a 20 percent decline in funding since FY 2008.

Texas has begun the closure of the Al Price State Juvenile Correctional Facility in an effort to bridge a $117 million shortfall over the next two years.

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States around the country have dealt with the decline in available funds for juvenile justice and other related programs in their own ways. This article is merely a snapshot of some of the realities on the ground.

Youth Today has started an open-ended compilation of state-by-state spending on juvenile justice, child welfare and youth to help make sense of all the numbers.