Girls should never be criminalized for being victims of abuse and violence. Stop the Abuse to Prison Pipeline.
For the past several years, we have been working to ensure that the YWCA is in a good position to grow. We have assessed our events and programs for their ability to meet our mission and grow even further. We have said goodbye to some that had run their course, strengthened others, and opened ourselves to new opportunities.
As Executive Director, it has been my goal to seek mission-driven ways in which we can impact not just the UI campus, but our larger Urbana-Champaign home. And the need for us to fulfill our mission--eliminating racism and empowering women--is a strong as it ever was.
So it is with great eagerness that we are announcing our new advocacy initiative, focused on locally disrupting the Abuse to Prison Pipeline: the systemic, gendered pathways that funnel girls into the juvenile justice system.
Why the Abuse to Prison Pipeline?
Currently, 73% of girls in the juvenile justice system have a history of sexual and physical abuse, and it is their responses to such trauma that lead us to criminalize them. Girls who suffer such trauma frequently react by running away, acting out at home and in school, abusing alcohol and other substances, acting aggressively, or become prey to human trafficking. (Rights4Girls)
Additionally, pervasive and systemic racism ensures that girls of color are vastly overrepresented in the Pipeline: 66% of incarcerated girls are girls of color, despite being only 22% of the general youth population. (Rights4Girls)
Girls who have experienced trauma, and especially girls of color, are losing their childhoods, their freedom, and their lives because of the public systems that our society has created and sustained.
How we choose as a society and as a community to respond to the abuse to prison pipeline is up to us.
The YWCA chooses to work and advocate for these girls in this community.
We are at the beginning of an advocacy campaign that we project to last at least five years:
We are in the midst of our own educational process about systemic issues and proactive solutions for dismantling the abuse to prison pipeline
We are reaching out to community members and organizations that work with and for girl victims of trauma. We are listening to and learning from them about what is and is not working.
We are working to raise public awareness of these issues, and our collective ability to change these systems.
Within the next year we will work with the community to identify particular points of systemic change that could change the outcomes for girls, especially girls of color, and build focused advocacy campaigns around them.
This is an issue we cannot ignore, and we want you with us.