Youth Incarceration Is Down, But Not for Youth of Color

Series of articles draws from nationwide study of juvenile justice system stakeholders

Apr 01, 2014, 12:00 ET from National Council on Crime and Delinquency

OAKLAND, Calif., April 1, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The National Council on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD) has published a series of reports regarding the dramatic reduction of youth incarceration rates in most US states. The latest data from the US Justice Department showed that the rate of youth in confinement dropped 41% between 2001 and 2011. Since 2001, 48 states have experienced such a decline.

Yet, despite the overall reduction in incarceration rates among youth, much higher percentages of youth of color remain under formal supervision and in state secure facilities. Dr. Angela Irvine, an author of the study and the director of research in NCCD's Oakland office, said, "States across the country have been successful at reducing the overall numbers of youth in the juvenile justice system. At the same time, youth of color have jumped from 68% to 81% of all youth sentenced in juvenile court. In order to reverse this trend, we will have to find solutions that we've never tried before on a large scale—solutions that come from the communities most impacted by incarceration." 

NCCD collected information for the study through interviews and listening sessions involving than 140 key stakeholders, who were well-versed in research that exposes the problems associated with unnecessary contact with the juvenile justice system. NCCD's research process included a literature review; listening sessions in five states: Alabama, California, Michigan, New York, and Texas; and a national convening of juvenile justice leaders, as well as compiling and analyzing county-level data from five jurisdictions.

NCCD's series of reports and information sheets includes "Using Bills and Budgets to Further Reduce Youth Incarceration," which lays out examples of state legislation considered to be major steps in the juvenile justice reform process.

This type of legislation answers a need expressed by many who contributed to the NCCD study: money needs to flow into the communities most impacted by incarceration if we are going to solve the challenge of deep-end racial and ethnic disparities. Some funding will be needed by systems to expand their use of data, risk assessments, and decision grids to help probation officers, police officers, and district attorneys use more effective practices. However, systems will also need to identify ways to direct funds to community-based organizations practicing the most promising culturally relevant practices that will funnel youth of color out of the juvenile justice system.

NCCD's series on youth deincarceration trends can be found here.

About NCCD
NCCD promotes just and equitable social systems for individuals, families, and communities through research, public policy, and practice. For more information about NCCD, please visit our website.

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SOURCE National Council on Crime and Delinquency