Given the rarity and inconsistency of research to date on the nature of disparities between Latino and white youth in the juvenile justice system, this study conducted such an assessment of juvenile-justice case processing for a 2-year period in Arizona.
An analysis of rates of referral to juvenile court found that white youth were more likely to be referred to juvenile court than Latino Youth. Black and Native-American youth were referred to juvenile court more than twice as often as white youth. Compared to white youth, however, Latino youth were underrepresented in diversions from formal court processing; and they were overrepresented in direct filings to adult court, in pre-adjudicatory secure detention, in petitions filed for formal juvenile court processing, and in commitment to correctional facilities at disposition. Based on multivariate analyses that controlled for the influence of age, gender, number of prior juvenile-justice contacts, most serious current offense, and dependency status, the aforementioned disparities among ethnic groups remained. There were some Arizona counties, however, where this pattern was not found; these were counties in which Latino youth were the largest racial/ethnic group in the general population. Recommendations for future research are offered. They include the recommendation that ongoing assessments of disparity in the juvenile justice system should not involve a statewide-only approach. Rather, research should focus on jurisdictions with the greatest levels of disparity, so as to ensure a more efficient use of resources in achieving greater reductions in disparity. 41 tables, 2 figures, and appended methodological details