Leslie Acoca
Health and Justice for Girls

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.