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Articles tagged with: Racial Disparities

Youth in Adult System at Highest Risk of Early Death

Nils Franco, CFYJ Intern Tuesday, 17 November 2015 Posted in 2015, Research & Policy

Written by Nils Franco, CFYJ Intern

Mortality rates at each stage of the juvenile justice system compared with transferred youth and the general population
A new study calls for preventive approaches on youth crime after examining mortality rates for youth offenders. The study finds that long-term early mortality rates are highest among youth in the adult criminal justice system.

The article, published Thursday in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, examines mortality under the scope of various socioeconomic factors and the severity of justice-system involvement – for instance, whether the youth was tried as an adult or simply arrested.

The study is the largest-scale effort to examine the link between the severity of involvement and youth offender mortality rates. Across race and gender, youth at each higher level of involvement have a greater mortality rate in the time span studied.

To obtain these findings, the study’s authors tracked the records of almost 50,000 youth offenders (that is, people arrested under the age of 18) in Marion County, Indiana, over the course of more than a decade. Of the sample of youth offenders, 518 died during the study period. The most common causes of death for these deceased – homicide, suicide, and overdose – are indicative of troubles that haunt young offenders into adulthood.
 The causes of death among arrested, detained, incarcerated, or transferred youth.

The authors broke up their sample into four groups: youth who were only arrested, youth detained pre-trial but never incarcerated, youth incarcerated in the juvenile system, and youth transferred to the adult system. Overall, these young offenders’ mortality rates measured 48% higher than the rates of the general community over the study period.

With each increment in justice-system involvement, mortality rates increased: mortality rates for youth detained pre-trial measured 83% higher than arrested youth, incarcerated youth mortality measured 140% higher than arrested youth mortality, and transferred youth mortality rates measured 247% higher than the rates of arrested youth.

The study corroborates another disturbing trend in racial disparity: black youth represent 47% of Marion County’s youth arrests, though only 28% of the county is black. That disparity grows at each level of involvement, from 47% in arrests, to 52% in pre-trial detention, to 58% in juvenile prison, to 68% in transfers to the adult court. Notably, adult-system involvement represents the greatest jump in the gap between black youth and white youth.

The proportion of youth who are black in each stage of the juvenile justice system compared with the general population.

The limited data prevents the study’s authors from drawing conclusions about the role of the justice system’s treatment of youth in these outcomes, but the authors still call for more evidenced-based practices to lower crime and improve violence prevention services for youth in detention centers. Past studies have suggested a causative link between sentencing youth to adult prison and future criminal behavior.

 

Implicit Bias Spurs Racial Sentencing Gap

Nils Franco, CFYJ Policy Intern Thursday, 29 October 2015 Posted in 2015, Research & Policy

A Bureau of Justice Statistics­­–sponsored working paper published on October 23rd provides new analysis of racial disparities in federal sentencing outcomes for adults between 2005 and 2012. The paper suggests that judicial discretion causes growing differences in sentences between black and white men.

The report finds that black men received sentences 5 to 10% longer than white men for the same crimes, even when accounting for factors like criminal history. The authors did not find a significant difference between the sentences of white and black women.

This eight-year period saw a trend of more lenient sentencing for the study’s population. However, more lenient sentencing only increased racial differences in sentencing, according to the report. Females and white men experienced a greater decline in sentence length than black men.

Insufficient data existed to determine if prosecutorial discretion was a significant cause of racial disparity to begin with, but racial differences at the prosecutorial stage held constant through the eight year period. Therefore, the authors determine judicial behavior to be responsible for the growing sentencing gap between white and black men.

Examining the influence of federal judges on that gap, the researchers find that individual judges’ behavior determine much of the sentencing disparity. Generally, judges who sentenced blacks to longer-than-average sentences also sentenced whites to longer-than-average sentences. Some judges sentenced blacks and whites almost equally, but the most punished black men significantly more harshly than white men. On the other end, some judges’ sentencing practices produced “especially large” racial differences.

This variation from one judge to the next cannot be accounted for by “unobserved, systematic differences between whites and blacks,” the authors find. In other words, the disparity is not solely caused by correlatives of race (e.g., education and demeanor).

Racial bias influences judicial sentencing decisions, and this influence appears to have grown between 2005 and 2012. To address this issue, the National Center for State Courts has published resources and strategies for judges to minimize and better understand race’s implicit role in sentencing outcomes.

The best way to handle counterproductive criminal justice mechanisms is to replace them altogether with evidence-based practices. But at times, this comprehensive reform is not possible, and incremental progress is necessary. In the case of adult prosecution of youth, incremental reform often promotes judicial discretion to send cases back to the juvenile court. Ensuring judges consider the potential role that race may play in their decisions is crucial to equitable reform outcomes for all youth.

An executive summary of the working paper from the Bureau of Justice Statistics can be accessed here.

 

Written by Nils Franco, CFYJ Policy Intern

#YJAM: The little conversation about luck

Shawn Kelly, Intern with the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana, a project of the Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights. Thursday, 15 October 2015 Posted in 2015, Voices

Shawn Kelly Intern4

So what can I write about from my perspective? I mean I am not a lawyer. I’m not a judge or politician. I am just an intern in the New Orleans juvenile public defender’s office. But I am young black male. I am 20 now but only three years ago, I could have been in the same place a lot of the kids in the system are in. See I came from a lower income area, I went to public school, and I also did my fair share of juvenile misbehaving. The only difference between my story and so many of the kids we see on these streets…I got lucky.

Now that’s not to take away from my own hard work but it’s the truth. I got lucky to have good parents who are still married and raised me the best they could even with financial struggles. I was lucky enough to go to a really good public high school (The real purple and gold, Warren Easton). I was lucky enough that I never got caught when I misbehave and when I did misbehave I had people behind me to check me whenever I stepped out of line. But for a lot of kids in this city, they don’t have that luck.

See, their reality is going to schools that don’t teach them. Their reality is growing up in single parent homes where their mother has to struggle to provide. Their reality is much different than mines but it’s close enough where I can feel it and understand that could have been me. But for many of the people in this juvenile system, they don’t know that reality. They just see black bodies committing crime. That’s all they see and they stand on their high horse. We have judges that chastise young men for sagging their pants. But do they ask if that young man even had enough money to buy a belt? People chastise young women for selling their bodies in these streets. But do they ask if that young woman has been sexually abused like so many others?

So when I think of my story of how lucky and blessed I am, I get upset a little bit. I think of my accomplishments like graduating high school and going to college and I think why can’t others achieve this? I don’t think it’s because they didn’t pull themselves up by the boot straps and work hard. I don’t think it’s because they have terrible parents and terrible schools. No, it’s none of that. It’s so much bigger and terrible than that. It’s so many combinations of things that these young people will never understand. We can’t teach them all about inequalities that are so deep in this country. I still don’t understand it and I am a sociology and African American studies student. We can’t tell them to stop selling drugs when getting a job at McDonald’s is only paying $7.25 an hour and you need a high school diploma to work there in some places.

As a wise man once said, “the streets are always hiring”. We can ask for many things from youth but I think we need to start asking the question that I ask myself.  I ask myself, what can I do? What can I do so more people make it in this world? People need to ask that question. Especially those in our juvenile system that didn’t need the luck and were privileged and now send those unprivileged to jail. What can you do to help more make it and less fail? Once you ask that question and have a honest discussion in your mind, then maybe just maybe, we all can have a discussion about this system and see how we can help people.

Join LCCR, the Joan Mitchell Center, and community co-sponsors as they bring the Juvenile-in-Justice exhibition to New Orleans as part of National Youth Justice Awareness Month.

Created by acclaimed photographer and advocate for juvenile justice reform Richard Ross, Juvenile-in-Justicedocuments the experiences of children in prisons around the nation through powerful photographs and personal narratives. The traveling exhibit brings viewers into spaces normally hidden from view to tell the stories of the most vulnerable members of our society. Exhibit Runs Oct. 23- Nov. 20.

Written by Shawn Kelly, Intern with the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana, a project of theLouisiana Center for Children’s Rights. Shawn is 20 years old and currently attends Loyola University in New Orleans, where he is the President of the Black Student Association. He is one of our paid interns, funded through the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), through its Young Men’s Voices have Power in New Orleans (YMVP-NOLA) program.

 

juvenile in justice

Report Shows Florida Prosecutors Abuse Direct File Power

Wednesday, 23 April 2014 Posted in 2014, Research & Policy


In a recent report titled “Branded for Life,” the Human Rights Watch condemned the state of Florida’s outdated policies of allowing juveniles to be moved to the adult court through “direct file.” This policy allows a prosecutor to have unfettered discretion to move any juvenile offender under 18 into the adult court. “Florida transfers more children out of the juvenile system and into adult court than any other state. In the last five years alone, more than 12,000 juvenile crime suspects in Florida were transferred to the adult court system.” Roughly 98% of Florida youth in adult courts are there because of the arbitrary decisions of prosecutors stemming from this “direct file” process.

Why Federal Dollars Matter

Sunday, 13 October 2013 Posted in 2013, Across the Country

 
In celebration of Youth Justice Awareness Month, you have been hearing a lot about successful state efforts to keep kids out of the adult criminal justice system.   You’ve heard personal stories from the field like the one from Tracy McClard, the mom that started it all advocating for reform in Missouri.  You saw the State Trends report from Campaign for Youth Justice (CFYJ) that highlights positive developments in states like Colorado, Connecticut and Mississippi. 
 
But states are not the only arena for reform.  For nearly four decades, the federal Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) has been supporting state efforts to build effective justice systems that keep youth out of adult jails and prisons, provide appropriate support for system-involved youth, and invest in strategies to prevent crime and reduce recidivism. 
 
Last month, on the 39th anniversary of the passage of this landmark law, I wrote about why JJDPA matters to the state efforts going on around the country and to the thousands of young people who come in contact with our justice system.  Strong federal policy, like the JJDPA, sets a standard for how system-involved youth should be treated and brings to bear resources to help states achieve that standard.  This helps create a more favorable climate for reform that advocates across the country can leverage. 
 
Whether you are a seasoned state advocate or a young person just starting out, you can use the JJDPA as the basis for advancing policies on the ground.  Whether you want to raise the age of juvenile court jurisdiction and keep more youth out of adult facilities, reduce racial disparities, or resource alternatives to the more costly and detrimental practices of detention and incarceration, support for these policies are reflected in the JJDPA.
 
What happens at the national level can and does influence what happens in states and communities across the country.  That’s why CFYJ along with other national and state coalition partners in the ACT4JJ Campaign continue to press Congress to reauthorize and adequately fund this important law. 


You can help.  As we all take the month of October to recognize the many advances in states across the country, we encourage you to take a few minutes to check out the JJDPA Matters Action Center and let your national leaders know  you support the JJDPA and related juvenile justice funding.  Let them know that federal policies and programs can be part of the solution for youth in your community. Let them know that the JJDPA matters to you.

Join us this week in continuing the conversation on youth justice issues, follow us on Facebook and Twitter using: 

 

#JJDPAmatters #YJAM #JUSTinvest #youthjustice