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Leave No Child Behind: Fairer Juvenile Justice

NCJ Number
Marian Wright Edelman
Date Published
2 pages
This article discusses a new report, released by Building Blocks for Youth, which confirms that there are numerous injustices to young people of color, particularly Latinos, in the juvenile and criminal justice systems in the United States.
In this article it is reported that Latino youth are more likely to be incarcerated than white youth charged with the same type of offenses in 46 of the 50 States. In New York, Latino youth are twice as likely as white youths to be incarcerated in jails and prisons. It is suggested that the problem may be even greater due to under-reporting and poor data collection on the children affected. Many States do not offer "Latino" as a choice for describing ethnicity, resulting in many Latino youth being described as "White" or "Black" or "Other." This assures that our policies cannot be fair or that the needs of young people in trouble are not being addressed. Also, it is noted that there is a lack of bilingual services and culturally competent staff for Latino and Latina youth in the U.S. juvenile justice system. For example, the behavior of not looking a judge in the eye is considered a sign of respect to a Latino, but a sign of guilt to a U.S. judge, resulting in sentences of incarceration to innocent youth. It is emphasized that a commitment must be made by our juvenile justice system to not ignore the "invisible minority," Latino youth. Suggestions for making the system more fair are given, including proposed legislation in the U.S. Congress. A call to action on the part of readers of this article includes calling on policy makers to support the Act to Leave no Child Behind, and joining the Movement to Leave No Child Behind.