And Justice for Some

 

WASHINGTON, DC - A new study, entitled "And Justice for Some" funded in part by the Department of Justice, along with six major foundations, has found that non-white juveniles are treated more harshly at every point in the justice system. The report found that non-white juveniles are more likely to be arrested, held in jail, remanded to adult court, convicted, sentenced to prison and given longer sentences.

Among offenders who have never before served time, black youths were six times as likely as whites to be sentenced to prison. For violent crimes, they are nine times as likely to be incarcerated, and then are sentenced to an average of 254 days versus 193 days for whites. For those charged with drug offenses, black youths are 48 times as likely to be sentenced to juvenile detention as white youths.

"We find that this report leaves no doubt that we are faced with a very serious national civil rights issue, virtually making our system juvenile injustice," says Hugh B. Price, President and CEO of the National Urban League. "What is most disturbing is the pervasive nature of the discriminatory treatment of minority youth at each stage of the juvenile justice system."

The report, which can be found on the web at www.buildingblocksforyouth.org, was funded in part by the Open Society Institute, the Ford Foundation, the MacArthur foundation, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Walter Johnson Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation.

"Eradicating discrimination in the juvenile justice system is the next big battle for civil rights leaders, and this battle starts now," says Hiewet Senghor, National Director, NAACP Youth & College Division. "We're calling on Vice President Al Gore and Texas Governor George W. Bush to make us a pledge: that if elected President, they will take concrete steps to eliminate this double-standard of justice that's devastating our communities."

"This report shows that youth of color are over-represented at each point in the system and that this disadvantage accumulates as they move through the system," says Michael Jones, co-author of the report and Senior Researcher at NCCD.

"Minority youth are more likely to be referred to juvenile court, be detained, face trial as adults and go to jail than white youth who commit comparable crimes. This makes kids of color much more likely to spend their formative years behind bars."

Among the major findings of the report:

  • In every offense category - person, property, drug, public order - a substantially greater percentage of African-American youth were detained than white youth.
  • Minority youth are overrepresented in the detained population in nearly all states.
  • African-American youth are more likely to be formally charged in juvenile court than white youth, even when referred for the same offense.
  • Minority youth were much more likely to be waived from juvenile court to adult criminal court than white youth, even when charged with the same offenses. This was true in every offense category.
  • When white youth and minority youth were charged with the same offenses, African-American youth with no prior admissions were six times more likely to be incarcerated in public facilities than white youth with the same background. Latino youth were three times more likely than white youth to be incarcerated.
  • Nationally, custody rates were five times greater for African American youth than for white youth.
  • Custody rates for Latino and Native American youth were two times the custody rate of white youth.
  • In 1997, 7,400 new admissions to adult prisons involved youth under the age of 18. Three out of four of these youth were minorities.