Leslie Acoca is the President of the National Girls Health and Justice Institute, where she directs the Girls Health Screen Project and works to ensure that the physical and mental health needs of justice-involved girls are identified and treated. She is a 2019 Mesa Refuge Fellow and is currently working on completing her book, Pink Shackles: Locking Down and Freeing Up Girls Detained in the United States and by ICE.
Throughout her career, Leslie has founded and led a number of organizations working at the intersection of the justice and health systems. Her previous positions have included director of development and operations for the Daraja Education Fund, co-founder of Commonweal, founder and Director of Threshold for Change Inc., and Director of the Women and Girls’ Institute at the National Council on Crime and Delinquency. As a Stoneleigh Fellow from 2007-2010, Leslie developed and piloted the Girls Health Screen, the nation’s first evidence-based medical screen designed exclusively for girls in the juvenile justice system. The screen will be installed in the state of Nevada as a means of preventing the sexual abuse of detained girls. Leslie’s work has been featured by The Los Angeles Times, Kaiser Health News, and NPR’s All Things Considered, among others. She lectures nationally, is a published author, and is the recipient of several awards, including the International Unsung Hero of Compassion award from the Dalai Lama.
During 2021-2022, Leslie and her team will also be interviewing girls held in ICE detention facilities to assess their health and trauma needs and improve their access to care.
Leslie holds a BA in English and sociology from Yale University and a dual master’s in counseling and psychology from the University of San Francisco.