Leslie Acoca
Health and Justice for Girls

Fellowships and Awards

Stoneleigh Foundation Fellowship 2008-2010

The Dalai Lama Unsung Hero Award, 2001

The National Council on Crime and Delinquency: Excellence in Media and Justice

The Outstanding Achievement in Drug Treatment Award from the California Association of County Drug Program Administrators


                      Leslie Acoca, MA., MFT

Stoneleigh Fellow, Executive Director

National Girls Health and Justice Institute


Summary: Leslie Acoca is a Stoneleigh Fellow and Executive Director and Founder of the National Girls Health and Justice Institute (NGHJI). A California non-profit organization. The mission of the NGHJI is to create health care and opportunity without bars for the 650,000 girls who enter the United States Juvenile Justice System each year. The Institute also promotes improved systems of care for the estimated 60,000 infants and children of girls in the juvenile justice system as well as for girls in the child welfare and homeless systems.

In her previous executive, research and policy positions, Ms. Acoca’s goal has been to identify the factors leading to girls and women getting arrested and incarcerated at twice the rate of boys and men. Her quest to understand and ultimately stop this historic trend has led to her interview over 3,200 incarcerated girls and women ages 10-72 years old locked in detention centers, jails and prisons in 26 states. Ms. Acoca has conducted and published 6 ground-breaking national studies identifying the needs of incarcerated girls and women, and has become a nationally recognized speaker on the heath of vulnerable young women and on the intersection of the justice and health systems. Her Research to Action policy agenda has led her to use her research findings to write and assist in the passage of gender-responsive legislation in 5 states including California.

Since Ms. Acoca’s 2001 study, Educate or Incarcerate: Girls in the Florida Juvenile Justice System revealed that access to health care could significantly reduce girls’ offending and violence, she developed and validated the Electronic Girls Health Screen. This computerized, gender-responsive medical screen is the first and only evidence-based medical questionnaire in the nation designed to identify and prioritize the medical needs of incarcerated adolescent girls 11-17. She is currently working with several state systems to pilot an Electronic Girls Health Passport which will provide a seamless continuum of health services for girls in the juvenile justice and child welfare systems. Leadership Positions: Ms. Acoca co-founded Full Circle Programs and Commonweal, Inc. with Michael Lerner in Bolinas, California. Full Circle was a residential treatment center for youth offenders with learning, behavior and chronic health problems. Commonweal, Inc.,