The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Morgan McLeod,

Black Youth 5x More Likely To Be Incarcerated Than White Youth


The advancement of racial justice has eluded youth decarceration efforts in the United States. A new report from The Sentencing Project reviews 10 years of youth incarceration data and finds the persistence of racial and ethnic disparities.

In an era in which youth incarceration has dropped by half, African American and American Indian youth remain roughly five times and three times as likely, respectively, as their white peers to be incarcerated. Latinx youth are also more likely to be incarcerated, but the disparities are shrinking and not as stark. In state rankings, New Jersey warrants special mention due to its number one and number three status for highest Black-white and Latinx-white disparities in youth incarceration, respectively.

"Even as incarceration falls, youth of color are still being treated more harshly than their white peers," said Josh Rovner, Senior Advocacy Associate and the author of Racial Disparities in Youth Incarceration Persist. "States and counties must tackle their racial and ethnic disparities head on."

The report offers recommendations to confront racism in the juvenile justice system:

  • Utilize racial impact statements to educate policymakers about changes in sentencing or law enforcement policies and practices;
  • Collect and disseminate demographic data on the number of incarcerated or justice-system involved youth more frequently;
  • Invest heavily in community programs that address inequality at the earliest stages

Read the full report here.

The Sentencing Project is a leader in changing the way Americans think about crime and punishment. The Sentencing Project promotes effective and humane responses to crime that minimize imprisonment and criminalization of youth and adults by promoting racial, ethnic, economic, and gender justice.

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