November 8, 2011
The disproportionate impact the juvenile justice system has on youth of color is well-documented: they are detained, transferred to adult court, and sentenced to life without parole at a much greater rate than their White counterparts. Worse yet, many land in the juvenile justice system for low-level crimes, not because of the actual risk they pose to their communities.
So why do these young people end up in the juvenile justice system? A new analysis by the W. Haywood Burns Institute on youth in the juvenile justice system in California, "Non-Judicial Drivers into the Juvenile Justice System for Youth of Color," indicates that lack of access to medical care and behavioral health care are key drivers. This is compounded by a lack of awareness of trauma-informed alternatives that can address the root causes of illegal behavior.
The report includes recommendations specific to California, but which could form the basis of an action plan in other communities.