More juvenile girls commit assaults, judge says
More and more girls are being charged with assault — a statistic that Senior U.S. District Judge Maurice B. Cohill Jr. called Tuesday “a chilling trend.”
In a speech paying tribute to Lydia’s Place — a Pittsburgh nonprofit organization that runs programs for women in jail — Cohill yesterday noted the increase in assaults by females.
He said that since 1980, aggravated assaults have increased 121 percent for juvenile females in contrast to a 28 percent increase for males. And the weapons-offense arrest rates among juveniles have increased 121 percent for females compared to a 28 percent increase for males.
Cohill, who was an Allegheny County Common Pleas juvenile judge for 11 years before he went to the federal bench, cited statistics compiled by the National Center for Juvenile Justice in Pittsburgh. He and other judges established the center 30 years ago.
The center is the research arm of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, which tracks social changes.
“In a country where women are increasingly involved in violent-person crimes — but at the same time are involved in raising children — to me this reinforces the need for an organization like Lydia’s Place,” Cohill said at a breakfast meeting at Omni William Penn Hotel, Downtown.
Among its programs, Lydia’s Place runs parenting classes; re-entry-to-society programs for women in jail; and family reunification and support services after an inmate’s release.
During his 38 years on the state and federal benches, Cohill said, he has seen the drug problem explode. He said that most “female-type offenses” — such as shoplifting and prostitution — “are all-too-often committed by women on drugs.”
“If a category were created called ‘drug-related crimes,’ I think the numbers would be staggering,” Cohill said.
In June, 11,702 women were incarcerated in federal prisons, Cohill said.
Although judges only can recommend to the federal Bureau of Prisons where a defendant serves a sentence, Cohill said he nearly always recommends that a female prisoner be placed in an institution as close to her home as possible.