Girls Court launches in Duval County

Program designed to help at-risk teenage girls

By Ashley Spicer - Reporter, anchor

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Fourth Judicial Circuit Court in Duval County launched Girls Court on Wednesday.

It's a specialized form of juvenile court that will link at-risk girls to community programs to reduce punishment in juvenile detention.

Judge David Gooding deals with teens in the court system all the time. He hopes Girls Court will help them have a higher chance of success after probation.

"The way girls respond to the trauma they suffer is different," Gooding said. "They tend to internalize their response, and that results in more self-destructing behaviors."

The main focus of the pilot program is on teen moms, pregnant teens and human trafficking victims. It will give girls access to therapy, programs and mentors. Girls will also tour college and attend career development programs.

Alisa Hill's daughter is a teen mom who is in Girls Court.

"I've seen tremendous changes since we started being a part of this program," Hill said. "It has allowed Suzy to have more accountability and embrace motherhood of her daughter."

Hill said she is impressed with Gooding and the other mentors.

"I like the way he interacts with the teens and gets them involved and lets them have a say, and I've never seen that in court before," Hill said.

The development of Girls Court is an effort between several agencies, including the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center.

"The balance of holding girls accountable for their behavior, but also recognizing a mistake you make as a child shouldn't define the rest of your life," center spokeswoman Lawanda Ravoira said.

Girls Court is voluntary and is the seventh of its kind in the country.

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