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State Trying To Prevent Girls From Entering Juvenile Justice System

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FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — Research suggests young girls can show signs of self-destructive behavior from the age of eight or even earlier. If gone unnoticed, they could end up in trouble with the law. The state is trying to do something to prevent girls from entering the juvenile justice system.

At 14, Terri Strickland was caught shoplifting at Kmart.

"I was hanging around the wrong group of friends, thinking that if they were doing it and getting away with it, then I figured that I would go on and try it, but it didn't work out that way," she said.

Erika Gilliam's parents are both in jail. She is currently on probation for assault with a deadly weapon. By selling drugs on the streets, Gilliam could afford her own place at 13 and by age 14, she bought herself a car.

This type of destructive activity is what the state wants to prevent. Over a five-year period in North Carolina, the admission rate into detention has increased 74 percent for girls compared to 40 percent for boys.

On Tuesday, the Department of Juvenile Justice and Delinquence Prevention held a conference called "Focus on Girls."

Social workers, school leaders and others talked about gender-specific intervention and learning what risk factors to look for in girls. Experts said difficulty in school and having trouble making friends are some signs.

"Paying attention to those and intervening early and having some prevention activities can stop them from heading into the juvenile justice system," Dr. Lawanda Ravoira of the PACE Center for Girls said.

Strickland and Gilliam are now on the right track and said having support has made a differnce in their lives.

"Find someone you can talk to, that you can trust, regardless if it's little things or the bad things," Gilliam said.


Melissa Buscher, Reporter
Michael Joyner, Photographer
Kamal Wallace, Web Editor

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