Disparities in Release Rates for Black Youth in Juvenile Detention

A recent survey by the Annie E. Casey Foundation revealed that in response to the coronavirus pandemic, black youth detained in juvenile facilities were released at a far slower rate than their white peers. Black children are disproportionately represented in the juvenile justice system, and this report highlights another disparity for children of color. Black youth are being released at rates up to 17 percent lower than white youth.

 

The New York Times article shared that juvenile public defenders and youth advocates have worked tirelessly to “free thousands of children from detention facilities,” at the outset of the pandemic, once public health officials warned that correctional institutions made youth vulnerable to the virus. The Sentencing Project has continued to track the number of reported cases of coronavirus in juvenile facilities since March. A total of 1,310 cases have been attributed to youth and 1,550 to staff.  

 

The Annie E. Casey report findings from a survey of juvenile justice agencies in 33 states reported that, in the months since the pandemic emerged in March, the disparities in detention that disadvantage Black youth have gotten worse, solely because Black youth have been released at a slower rate than their white peers.” All of the kids in juvenile detention are not being treated equally.

 

Among jurisdictions that provided information disaggregated by race and ethnicity, only about one-fifth of detained young people are white, while more than half are African American, and nearly one-fourth are Latino. In Maryland, approximately 200 juvenile offenders were released, and due to the admissions rates “plummeting,” so much two juvenile facilities have closed. Between March and June, admissions to juvenile detention were nearly 54% for Black youth, 52% white youth, and 51% for Latino youth, even though, youth of color are overrepresented in the juvenile justice system.  

 

This report strengthens the national conversation to bring an end to youth detainment and the role racial injustice plays in policing and court systems. The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Juvenile Justice Strategy Group Director, Nate Balis, stated, “This data demonstrates how critical it is for juvenile justice systems not only to keep young people out of detention facilities but also to act with urgency to get young people out. A more equitable youth justice system requires intense focus on releasing Black youth from detention.”

About the Author:

John Sciamanna is CWLA's Vice President of Public Policy.

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