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Excerpted From: Tiffany Williams Brewer and H. Mitchell Caldwell, No Girl Left Behind: Girls Courts as a Restorative Justice Approach to Healing, 52 Seton Hall Law Review 685 (2022) (131 Footnotes) (Full Document)


BrewerAndCaldwellHow do we provide healing and restoration to girls, ensuring that they are not left behind by their encounters with personal brokenness and the brokenness of the criminal justice system? As a society, we lose the contributions of girls who become enmeshed in the system and those same girls lose the hallmark of the American dream--the autonomy to fulfill their purpose and realize their individual potentials. As a contemporary society that prioritizes the empowerment of women and girls across the globe, the United States must engage in a call to action to redeem the girls that it currently leaves behind. The time is ripe for a return to restorative justice reform of the juvenile justice system that has failed to redirect girls' lives before they fall into the abyss of the adult criminal justice system.

This Article examines the need for a gendered restorative justice approach to healing girls from the trauma, abuse, abandonment, addiction, violence, and misdirection that many of them encountered as a result of the juvenile justice system's abandonment of its restorative justice roots and its failure to adequately account for gender distinctions between boys and girls. This Article focuses on the vulnerabilities of girls of color who are at particular risk of spiraling from the juvenile courts into the adult criminal justice system, which remains ill-equipped to meet the needs of incarcerated females. This Article will also examine the burgeoning movement of restorative court interventions for delinquent girls reflected in the creation of specialized Girls Courts. This Article will culminate in a proposed reformed template for Girls Courts to expand girls' opportunities, particularly for Black girls and other girls of color, to heal from trauma, addiction, and broken family structures, and to restore girls' ability to thrive in a meaningful life.

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The proposal for a modified Girls Court seeks to address the underserved needs of the most vulnerable girls in society and seeks to divert them from entering the juvenile justice or adult systems. By fixing vulnerabilities in the current system, we empower all girls, the juvenile justice system, and society as a whole. Creating a path to divert girls from juvenile delinquency strengthens the likelihood that girls can lead the passionate and purposeful lives for which they were intended.

Tiffany Williams Brewer is a former New Jersey Administrative Law Judge and law professor at Pepperdine Caruso School of Law.

H. Mitchell Caldwell is a law professor at Pepperdine Caruso School of Law and teaches in the areas of trial advocacy, criminal law, and criminal procedure.

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