Leslie Acoca

Founder – National Girls Health and Justice Institute


Leslie Acoca, MA, MFT, leads the movement in Los Angeles and nationally to forge a health pathway to wellness and justice for vulnerable and incarcerated girls. She created the Girls Health Screen—the only scientifically validated health and trauma screen for 500,000 incarcerated girls nationally—and is the Founder and President of the National Girls Health & Justice Institute.

Ms. Acoca lectures nationally and is a published author. National Public Radio (NPR) All Things Considered, the Los Angeles Times, and Kaiser Health News have prominently featured her work, and she has also appeared on TV and in several videos and feature length documentaries. In 2016, Acoca will publish her memoir, When Murder Comes Home, about how the murder of her brother affected her family and led to her career in justice.

Her service includes: Co-Founder, Commonweal., a renowned cancer support and juvenile justice center; Founder and Director, Threshold for Change Inc., a treatment continuum for dually-diagnosed youth; Founder and Director, Women and Girls Institute at NCCD; and Director, National Girls Health Screen Project. Acoca led six national studies identifying the risk factors leading to the incarceration of girls and women at twice the rate of boys and men. She has interviewed over 5000 incarcerated girls and women ages 10-72 who were locked in detention centers, jails, and prisons nationwide, including women on Death Row.

Acoca holds a BA with honors from Yale University, and a dual Masters degree in counseling and psychology from the University of San Francisco. She is currently a licensed MFT in the state of California. She is the recipient of the Stoneleigh Fellowship Award and the International Hero of Compassion award from the Dalai Lama.