Objective: To describe (1) the level of mental health problems and lifetime use of specialty mental health services and special education programs among incarcerated female juvenile offenders and (2) how these indices relate to their criminal history.
Method: Between 1997 and 1998, fifty-four female youths incarcerated in California were interviewed on-site using standardized self-report measures of depression and anxiety symptoms and substance use problems.
Results: Eighty percent of the youths had symptoms of an emotional disorder or substance use problem, and almost two thirds (63%) had a history of recidivism. Of those with emotional symptoms or a substance use problem, 51% had used specialty mental health services and 58% had been in a special education program during their lifetime. In addition, among recidivistic youths, 82% had a history of a substance use problem and 47% had used specialty mental health services during their lifetime.
Conclusions: A substantial proportion of female juvenile offenders merit a mental health evaluation. Interventions for these high-risk youths should include an assessment for substance use disorders because of the association of recidivism and substance use problems in this population.