Back on February 23, 2017 there was a symposium at John Jay College of Criminal Justice given by Pinkerton Fellowship. The topic was the criminalization of gender – not boys but girls. The example given was that of a 14-year-old black girl on a bus who cussed out a white boy. She was put in prison. In addition to the racial issues, the argument was made that if a white boy had done that the whole thing would have been ignored.

This issue is not new. Panel 1 discussed factors that lead to criminalization: 1) substance abuse, 2) placement in foster homes, 3) racial profiles, 4) offenses not limited to violations of the law. Woman many times do not have the means to support their families, so they turn to crime, and the problems are criminalized. The criticism was made that they really get no support from the community or the justice system though it is known that a girl is having a problem.

Panel 2 discussed the impact of criminalization. Among the results are suicide, death, and sexism. Additionally, foster care is seen as a funnel, a “cross-over” into the criminal justice system with “incredible long-term effects of having the police in your life.” – Mik Kinkead. Nevertheless it was Ebony Walcott who said, “It was the people around me who pulled me up.”

The featured speaker, Ana Oliveira who is President and CEO of The New York Women’s Foundation, said, “It is not a question of money. It is a question of investing the money in human beings... We cannot dream of freedom and have nightmare elements… Setting our sights high is not the reason for failure… It is important to do more of what works.”

Part 2 of this symposium will be held at John Jay College in April 2017. Contact Prisoner Re-entry Institute.