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And Justice for Some: Differential Treatment of Youth of Color in the Justice System

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 2007
41 pages
This report examines the disproportionate representation of racial or ethnic minorities within the United States Juvenile Justice System.
Racial and ethnic differences tend to accumulate as youth are processed through the system. Highlighted findings from the report articulate this and include: (1) in 2004, the majority of juveniles arrested were White youth and African-American youth were disproportionately arrested in 26 of 29 categories; (2) although White youth made up 67 percent of the juvenile court referrals, they made up 60 percent of the detained population, in contrast African-American youth made up 30 percent of the referrals and 37 percent of the detained population; (3) African-American youth were more likely than White youth to be formally charged in juvenile court, even when referred for the same type of offense; (4) African-American youth were somewhat more likely to be waived to adult criminal court than White youth; (5) African-American youth were overrepresented among cases receiving a disposition of out-of-home placement; (6) although African-American youth are 16 percent of the adolescent population in the United States, they are 38 percent of the almost 100,000 youth confined in local detention and State correctional systems; and (7) in 2002, an estimated 4,100 new admission to adult prisons involved youth under the age of 18; 3 out of 4 of these youths were youth of color. African-American juveniles are overrepresented with respect to their proportion in the population at every decision point in the process. From 2002 to 2004, African-Americans were 16 percent of youth, 28 percent of juvenile arrests, 30 percent of referrals to juvenile court, 37 percent of the detained population, 38 percent of youth in residential placement, and 58 percent of youth admitted to State adult prison. This report documents a juvenile justice system that is “separate and unequal.” Tables, figures and references