New Guide Champions Greater Racial Equity in Detention Via Case Processing Reforms

Posted September 11, 2017
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog newguidechampionsgreater 2017

A new Juve­nile Deten­tion Alter­na­tives Ini­tia­tive® prac­tice guide explores how reduc­ing unnec­es­sary delays in case pro­cess­ing can safe­ly decrease the num­ber of youth in secure deten­tion and elim­i­nate racial, eth­nic and gen­der dis­par­i­ties in detention.

Down­load the guide: Time­ly Jus­tice: Improv­ing JDAI Results Through Case Pro­cess­ing Reforms

As high­light­ed in JDAI at 25: Insights From the Annu­al Results Reports, the decline in deten­tion pop­u­la­tions across JDAI™ sites has large­ly been pro­por­tion­ate for youth of col­or and white youth. Yet, racial and eth­nic dis­par­i­ties in deten­tion have grown over time. Youth of col­or rep­re­sent the vast major­i­ty of the deten­tion pop­u­la­tion across the JDAI net­work and — absent a con­cert­ed and com­pre­hen­sive effort — this inequity will only increase.

Time­ly Jus­tice asserts that mov­ing youth out of deten­tion more quick­ly — beyond just focus­ing on deten­tion admis­sions — is impor­tant for achiev­ing greater racial equi­ty in detention.

Our sin­gle great­est chal­lenge for JDAI is to advance racial and eth­nic equi­ty,” says Nate Balis, the direc­tor of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Juve­nile Jus­tice Strat­e­gy Group. Case pro­cess­ing reforms can offer sites new path­ways to address per­sis­tent dis­par­i­ties in the use of secure detention.”

Research and prac­ti­cal JDAI expe­ri­ences show that case pro­cess­ing times vary in many places as a func­tion of race, eth­nic­i­ty or gen­der. More specifically:

  • Youth of col­or are arrest­ed, detained, adju­di­cat­ed, com­mit­ted and trans­ferred to adult courts at dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly high­er rates than their white peers. Both the like­li­hood of con­fine­ment and lengths of stay increase as youth move more deeply into the sys­tem, so it fol­lows that youth of col­or spend more time in deten­tion than their white counterparts.
  • The increas­ing num­ber of youth whose pri­ma­ry lan­guage is not Eng­lish pos­es dis­tinct chal­lenges for time­ly case pro­cess­ing, includ­ing the need for inter­preters. More­over, deter­min­ing a youth’s immi­gra­tion sta­tus may delay res­o­lu­tion of the imme­di­ate delin­quen­cy charge.
  • Girls gen­er­al­ly expe­ri­ence short­er stays in deten­tion than boys but are far more like­ly to be detained for their own pro­tec­tion, such as when they are thought to be vic­tims of the sex trade. Yet, in many juris­dic­tions, ser­vices for girls — espe­cial­ly those that address risk of sex traf­fick­ing, his­to­ries of trau­ma or propen­si­ty to run away — are fre­quent­ly unavail­able, caus­ing lengthy delays in release from detention.

Regard­less of why case pro­cess­ing times vary, sites that can iden­ti­fy the under­ly­ing obsta­cles and rem­e­dy them will like­ly reduce dis­par­i­ties relat­ed to how long youth stay in juve­nile detention.

In addi­tion to strate­gies for using case pro­cess­ing reforms to real­ize greater equi­ty in deten­tion, the prac­tice guide provides:

  • rec­om­men­da­tions for over­com­ing com­mon obsta­cles and chal­lenges to case pro­cess­ing reform, such as a dearth of data or chron­ic resource shortages;
  • effec­tive approach­es to achiev­ing more time­ly jus­tice, such as expe­dit­ing new delin­quen­cy cas­es or week­ly deten­tion reviews by stake­hold­ers from mul­ti­ple agencies;
  • guid­ance on pin­point­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties to move cas­es more quick­ly; and
  • a check­list for case pro­cess­ing reform planning.

The guide also encour­ages sys­tem stake­hold­ers to iden­ti­fy issues and oppor­tu­ni­ties and to exchange knowl­edge and action­able ideas that can get case pro­cess­ing reforms under­way immediately.

Want to exchange ideas on juve­nile jus­tice reform? Join JDAIcon­nect.

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