A Queens judge is blasting the city’s Probation Department for going easier on teenage girls than boys – even when they commit the same crimes.
Family Court Judge John Hunt accused probation of gender bias for trying to spare all but the most violent girls from prison time and the scarlet letter of the juvenile delinquent.
Hunt analyzed the cases of eight teenagers who had come before him – four boys and four girls – and found that probation routinely recommended tougher treatment for boys.
Take Queens eighth-graders Stephen C. and Jennifer S.
The teens took part in the robbery of a boy who was punched, kicked and choked before having his iPod wrested away. Probation recommended that Stephen be put on supervised probation while Jennifer should have her case eventually dismissed.
Judge Hunt disagreed Monday and ordered both teens put on probation for 18 months.
“The court could find no cogent reason why Jennifer S. should be treated differently than her accomplice, Stephen C.,” Hunt wrote.
Hunt blamed a “seemingly bizarre, sterile and largely impersonal system” for the disparate treatment.
In an effort to trim the number of locked-up juveniles, the city partnered with the Vera Institute of Justice in 2003 to develop a computer-generated program that would take the guesswork out of probation officers‘ recommendations.
A higher score on the Probation Assessment Tool (PAT) means a recommendation that could lead to eventual dismissal of charges. A lower score means probation or lockup, not to mention the juvenile delinquent tag.
Hunt claims PAT routinely rewards girls with 14 extra points for gender alone, while boys get 0.
“The system contains a built-in gender bias in favor of female delinquents,” Hunt writes.
Probation officials say the computer tool predicts the likelihood of a juvenile being rearrested based on a study of 763 similar cases.
“It is an assessment tool,” said Ryan Dodge, a probation spokesman. “The court can always go against it. It is not set in stone.”
Hunt said probation offered up no statistics to suggest boys were more likely to get in trouble again.
See the related “A Gender Disparity: Females vs. Males Sentenced for the Same Offense.“