Local program works to address growing number of girls in juvenile detention centers

DAVENPORT, Iowa (KWQC) - More girls are in juvenile detention now than 10 years ago, according to the Davenport Juvenile Detention Center.

A local program is working to address the growing number of girls in juvenile detention. (KWQC)

A local program is working to address the trend, plus a problem that comes with it: the lack of adequate programming.

Like many of the girls at the juvenile detention center, 17-year-old Taliya Sountris was referred into the Women's Leadership Program. She was arrested for being in a car with someone who had a gun, drugs, and alcohol.

"I was not aware of the gun, but I knew the weed and the open container was in there," she said.

The group was started four years ago by Sheri Flack, a juvenile court officer, after seeing a rise in girls entering the system.

"Girls nowadays are struggling with more violence than they have in the past, more fighting, involved in maybe some gang-related activities that we hadn't seen maybe 10, 15 years ago," she said.

The ten-week program is for girls 12 to 17 years old that are either on probation or have a first offense.

The group focuses on careers and have speakers come in and talk about their jobs.

"A lot of the stuff they do talk about it does open my eyes sometimes because I really do sit back and listen."

Another area of focus is giving back to the community.

Recently, the group visited a nursing home. They brought a tray of homemade cookies and cards.

Seeing the change is why Flack says they continue the program.

"We need a lot more services for girls, and I think they get overlooked quite a bit. Their programming is much different than it is for boys," she said.

For Sountris, this group has given her a second chance to turn her life around.

"It does make it better to come here, just because you are away from out there. You don't got to focus on nothing," she said.

With that focused attention, the hope is that these young women can succeed in turning their lives around.

The program has had 41 referrals and 31 girls who have completed it.