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African-American Youth in The Juvenile Justice System

African-American Youth in The Juvenile Justice System

Gase, one of the

Gase, one of the study’s authors, conducted this research as part of her dissertation while a doctoral student at UCLA. The study, “Understanding Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Arrest: The Role of Individual, Home, School, and Community Characteristics,” uses data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health) and examines a range of factors at the individual, home, school, and community level and its effect on youth arrest. This includes characteristics such as delinquent behavior, parent education, school size, and community unemployment. The results suggest racial disparities in youth arrests cannot be explained by differences in individual delinquent behavior. What they found is that contextual factors play a major role in these racial differences, and the primary driver is the racial make-up of a neighborhood. In the United States, residential segregation and housing discrimination have largely contributed to the current racial composition of neighborhoods. In a major city like Los Angeles, black people were historically barred from living in predominately white neighborhoods and relegated to parts of South Los Angeles such as South Central and Watts, according to Eric Avila, author of Popular Culture in the Age of White Flight: Fear and Fantasy in Suburban Los Angeles. The findings raise concerns that policing policies may differ based on the racial composition of the neighborhood. In 2015, an investigation by the Chicago Tribune revealed Chicago’s police department administered DUI checkpoints almost exclusively in black and Latino neighborhoods. Policing practices such as these disproportionately target minority groups and potentially contribute to these racial disparities. In order to address these racial differences, Gase believes there must be policy and system changes, but the work needs to be localized. This includes bringing people together and creating a space for meaningful dialogue among key stakeholders such as community members and policy makers, according to Gase. On January 24 of this year, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution to “advance a comprehensive, coordinated and expanded approach to youth diversion across Los Angeles County, with a goal of minimizing youth contact with the juvenile or criminal justice system.” This integrated approach calls for community-based groups, school districts, and local police departments among others to work together to keep young people out of the juvenile justice system Page 72 of 114

VI. Solutions Reducing Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Juvenile Justice Systems: Promising Practices Policy Update from the National Juvenile Justice Network September 2014 Crime policies and school, police, and juvenile court practices have led to a disproportionate focus on—and more punitive responses to—the behavior of youth of color. Despite the fact that crime rates and youth confinement have fallen sharply, youth of color remain disproportionately represented at nearly all contact points in the juvenile justice system—from arrest through charging, confinement, and transfer to adult court. Many states have begun implementing reforms to help reduce racial and ethnic disparities in the juvenile justice system. Thanks to the support of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Models for Change Initiative, Pennsylvania has implemented effective, data-driven reforms in several jurisdictions to reduce racial and ethnic disparities at many points in the juvenile justice system.[iii] This policy update draws on the work in Pennsylvania, as well as that in other jurisdictions — many of which have also been supported by Models for Change — to identify key policy recommendations that may help other jurisdictions reduce racial and ethnic disparities in detention and out-of-home placements. Policy Recommendations for Reform Engage Juvenile Justice Professionals and Diverse Members of the Community in Addressing Racial and Ethnic Disparities Racial and ethnic fairness is a complex issue that involves all aspects of the juvenile justice system and impacts many different community members. Often, as happened in Pennsylvania, juvenile justice professionals—including judges, prosecutors, defenders, and probation staff—form a steering committee or working group to address the issue of disparities. It is important that these steering committees also include and work collaboratively with community members, such as formerly system-involved youth and their families, advocates, police, schools, clergy, members of community organizations, and mental health service providers, as they are most directly impacted by the problem and can bring a sense of energy and urgency to the work. In Pennsylvania, the committee expanded beyond the “traditional” players to include many different voices, which led to the development of more culturally competent services, greater collaboration among youth-serving agencies, and, in one jurisdiction, a brand new federal grant to help at-risk youth. Other examples of community collaboration include the following: Page 73 of 114

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