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¿Dónde Está la Justicia? A Call to Action on behalf of Latino and Latina Youth in the U.S.

8/7/2002:   Building Blocks for Youth ( www.buildingblocksforyouth.org), an alliance of children's advocates, researchers, law enforcement professionals and community organizers that seeks to protect minority youth in the justice system and promote rational and effective justice policies, has issued a new report titled ¿Dónde Está la Justicia? A Call to Action on behalf of Latino and Latina Youth in the U.S.

According to the report, Latino and Latina youth receive disparate and more punitive treatment than their White peers charged with the same types of offenses. Available data actually under-count disparities because most states and the federal government fail to identify Latino youth in data collection, usually counting them as White.

Latino and Latina youth are more likely to be incarcerated than White youth charged with the same types of offenses. For youth charged with drug offenses, the incarceration rate for Latino youth was 13 times the rate for White youth. Latino youth charged with violent offenses were five times as likely to be incarcerated as White youth similarly charged. According to Human Rights Watch research, Latino youth are incarcerated at higher rates than Whites in 46 of the 50 states.

Other key findings of the report include:
  • Latino and Latina youth are significantly over-represented in the U.S. justice system and receive harsher treatment than White youth, even when charged with the same types of offenses;
  • Current means for collecting and accessing data are inadequate, resulting in under-counting and inaccuracies in reporting disproportionate representation and disparate treatment of Latino and Latina youth in the U.S. justice system;
  • The system does not provide uniform definitions for the terms Latino and Hispanic;
  • The system fails to separate ethnicity from race;
  • The system fails to provide adequate bilingual services to Latino and Latina youth;
  • The system fails to ensure cultural competency of staff working with Latino and Latina youth;

There are a number of recommendations included in this report, among them:

Public officials, policymakers, and the justice system should:
  • Eliminate racial profiling and other policies based explicitly or implicitly on racial or ethnic stereotypes;
  • Collect data in a way that accurately counts Latino youth by separating them from White, African-American, and other youth;
  • Employ bilingual and culturally competent staff to ensure better services to the Latino community;
  • Reduce subjective or biased decision making by creating objective risk assessment instruments.

Latino communities, youth and families should:
  • Get organized at a local level to make the justice system accountable to Latino communities and youth;
  • Call for the active inclusion of youth voices in policy development and implementation;
  • Form Latino advisory groups to guide policymaking and implementation in the law enforcement and justice systems.

The entire report, including an executive summary and ordering information, can be found at www.buildingblocksforyouth.org/latino_rpt/index.html.

CWLA's press release on this report can be found at www.cwla.org/execdir/edremarks020718.htm.

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