Leslie Acoca, MA., MFT
A Stoneleigh Fellow and Executive Director and
Founder of the National Girls Health and Justice Institute (NGHJI). The mission
of the NGHJI is to improve access to health care for the 641,000 adolescent
girls who enter the juvenile justice system each year in the United States. Ms.
Acoca’s previous research revealed that access to physical health care can
reduce recidivism and violent offending among girls, the fastest growing
segment of the juvenile justice population, by seventy-two percent.
A key objective of the NGHJI
is to disseminate the web-based Girls Health Screen (GHS), the first validated
gender-responsive physical and behavioral health screen for girls, and an
Electronic Girls Health Passport (EGHP) into the Los Angeles juvenile justice system.
The GHS will become part of an Electronic Girls Health Passport that will provide
girls with a portable medical record that will follow them from the juvenile
justice system into the community.
In her previous positions as Director of the Women and Girls Institute
at the National Council on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD), and Director of the
National Girls Health Screen Project, Ms. Acoca’ s goal has been to identify
the factors leading girls and women to get arrested and incarcerated at twice
the rate of boys and men. Her quest to understand, and ultimately interrupt,
this historic trend has led her to interview over 3,200 incarcerated girls and
women ages 10-72 years old who were locked in detention centers, jails and
prisons in 18 states. Ms. Acoca
has conducted and published 6 national studies identifying the needs of
incarcerated girls and women, and establishing the link between improved access
to health care and reduced recidivism and violence among girls. She is a nationally
recognized speaker on the health of vulnerable young women and on the
intersection of the justice and health systems.
Ms. Acoca received her undergraduate degree from Yale University and her
graduate degrees from the University of San Francisco. She is the recipient of the
Stoneleigh Fellowship Award and an international Hero of Compassion award from
the Dalai Lama.