Sadly, even in this 21st century, young people of color are significantly over-represented in the justice and foster care systems, as well as among struggling students, due to conscious and subconscious racial bias. In nearly every state, in every juvenile offense category—person, property, drug, and public order—youth of color receive harsher sentences and fewer services than white youth who have committed the same category of offenses.
Jurisdictions that have significantly reduced racial disparity in their juvenile justice systems analyze data by race and ethnicity to detect disparate treatment; use objective screening instruments to eliminate subjectivity from decision-making; coordinate with police to better control who comes in the door of the juvenile justice system; change hiring practices so that justice staff are more representative of youth in the system; hold staff accountable for placement decisions; develop culturally competent programming; and employ mechanisms to divert youth of color from secure confinement.
Principles of Reform
- Reduce Institutionalization
- Maximize Youth, Family and Community Participation
- Improve Aftercare and Reentry
- Create Smaller Rehabilitative Institutions
- Recognize and Serve Youth with Specialized Needs
- Create a Range of Community-Based Programs
- Ensure Access to Quality Counsel
- Reduce Racial Disparity
- Keep Youth Out of Adult Prisons
Each National Juvenile Justice Network member embraces the nine principles of reform, and conducts state-based work on at least one principle. These principles and the associated text are from “A Blueprint for Juvenile Justice Reform,” developed by the Youth Transition Funders Group.