Teenagers and youth across the country commit the same types of crimes – carrying a weapon, drinking alcohol, smoking marijuana and fighting – but even as the number of incarcerated youth has declined, disparities affecting young people of color have continued to grow. This overrepresentation of minority youth is only half of the picture, a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed, along with other reports.
This report is part of Kids Imprisoned, an investigation of juvenile justice in America produced by the Carnegie-Knight News21 program. For more stories, visit kidsimprisoned.news21.com.21
Youth of color account for 28% of the U.S. population in 2017, according to a study from the Pew Research Center. However, they represented 67% of offenders in residential placement, according to Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
Joshua Rovner, a senior advocacy associate for the Sentencing Project in Washington, D.C., said there isn’t a significant difference between the crimes committed by youth of different ethnicities. The overrepresentation of youth of color in the juvenile justice system originates from systemic inequalities.
“There are differences, but none of the differences are big enough to explain the differences in arrests,” Rovner said.
He said the disparity gets worse at every step through the juvenile justice system.
Nationally, Black youth are five times more likely to be detained or confined than white youth, the Sentencing Project reported.