Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act Set to be Reauthorized
URGE CONGRESS TO ELIMINATE DISPROPORTIONATE MINORITY CONTACT, PUSH FOR SEPARATION OF YOUTH FROM ADULTS IN PRISONS AND JAILS, AND DEINSTITUTIONALIZATION
Studies demonstrate that racial and ethnic minority youth are treated more harshly than their Caucasian counterparts at every stage of the juvenile criminal justice system. This is true from initial contact with law enforcement authorities through the disposition, trial and sentencing phases. Although the overall juvenile arrest rate has remained near a 25-year low, disparities between white and black juvenile arrest rates in 2006 were at the highest point in a decade. The arrest rate for white youth decreased 9% between 2001 and 2006 while the arrest rate for black youth increased by 7% during this same time period. Furthermore, every year in the U.S. an estimated 250,000 youth are tried, sentenced, or incarcerated as adults and a disproportionate number of these children are African American. While African American youth represent 16% of the overall population between the ages of 11 and 18, they comprise 37% of those arrested, 58% of youth prosecuted in the adult criminal justice system and are nine times more likely than white youth to receive an adult prison sentence. While there is a myriad of reasons for these disparities, much of this disparity is a result of disproportionate percentage of school-related arrests or referrals to law enforcement. Currently, African American and Hispanic youth represent more than 70% of those arrested or referred to law enforcement from school.
Involvement in the juvenile justice system has numerous negative consequences for young people, including educational disruptions, reduced future employment opportunities, and increased likelihood of arrest as an adult. The disparate treatment of African American youth in the juvenile justice system leads to disparities in other arenas, and contributes to an intergenerational cycle of justice system involvement and other problematic outcomes for our community.
The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) is currently the primary federal law intended to protect our youth who are involved with the juvenile criminal justice system. The JJDPA ensures that States meet four core requirements. These requirements are: the deinstitutionalization of status offenders; the separation of juveniles from adults in secure facilities; the removal of juveniles from adult jails and lockups; and the reduction of disproportionate minority contact (DMC) within the juvenile justice system. The DMC core requirement is of particular importance to our community because of the continuing unequal treatment and targeting of minority youth by the juvenile justice system. We are hoping that during the upcoming reauthorization of the JJDPA we will be able to expand the core requirements, improve prevention programs and reduce the number of youth and better protect those who come into contact with the juvenile and adult criminal justice systems.