Disparities Persist Among Young People Residing in Juvenile Justice Facilities in 2017

Posted January 18, 2020
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Racial and ethnic disparities of youth residing in juvenile justice facilities in 2017

The num­ber and share of young peo­ple in juve­nile deten­tion, cor­rec­tion­al or res­i­den­tial facil­i­ties in the Unit­ed States con­tin­ued to decline through 2017, but that devel­op­ment masks an impor­tant and per­sis­tent prob­lem: cer­tain racial and eth­nic groups are over­rep­re­sent­ed in the juve­nile jus­tice system.

Accord­ing to the fed­er­al resource known as Easy Access to the Cen­sus of Juve­niles in Res­i­den­tial Place­ment (EZA­CJRP), in 2017 — based on a one-day snap­shot — 43,580 peo­ple under age 21 lived in juve­nile deten­tion, cor­rec­tion­al or res­i­den­tial facil­i­ties. This trans­lates to a rate of 138 per 100,000 young peo­ple, a decrease of more than half since 2006 (when the rate was 289 per 100,000 young peo­ple). This decline has been broad based, with reduc­tions in every state between 2006 and 2017, and with every count con­duct­ed dur­ing that peri­od show­ing reduc­tions in every racial and eth­nic cat­e­go­ry com­pared with the pre­vi­ous census.

Yet sig­nif­i­cant dis­par­i­ties exist between young peo­ple in dif­fer­ent racial and eth­nic groups:

  • Amer­i­can Indi­an: 752 young peo­ple, a rate of 235 per 100,000
  • Asian: 361 young peo­ple, a rate of 19 per 100,000
  • Black: 17,841 young peo­ple, a rate of 383 per 100,000
  • His­pan­ic: 9,161 young peo­ple, a rate of 118 per 100,000
  • White: 14,215 young peo­ple, a rate of 83 per 100,000
  • Youth from oth­er groups totaled 1,250, with a rate per 100,000 not available.

These racial dis­par­i­ties have been remark­ably per­sis­tent. In every count since 1997, the rate of liv­ing in juve­nile facil­i­ties has been more than twice as high among Amer­i­can Indi­an youth and four times as high among black youth, as among white youth.

But the data also show that progress is pos­si­ble. For exam­ple, in 2011, His­pan­ic youth were 80% more like­ly than white youth to be liv­ing in juve­nile facil­i­ties. By 2017, that gap had been reduced by near­ly half, with a rate for His­pan­ic youth that was 42% high­er than for white youth.

Although the rate of incar­cer­a­tion of young peo­ple has fall­en con­sis­tent­ly in most states, racial and eth­nic dis­par­i­ties per­sist in every state. In all but six states, black youth are placed in juve­nile jus­tice facil­i­ties at high­er rates than any oth­er pop­u­la­tion (the excep­tions are Min­neso­ta, Nebras­ka, New Hamp­shire, Ore­gon and South Car­oli­na, where Amer­i­can Indi­an young peo­ple are incar­cer­at­ed at a high­er rate, and Mis­sis­sip­pi, where the high­est rate is for His­pan­ic youth).

The Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion seeks to help build a more effec­tive and equi­table youth jus­tice sys­tem through its Juve­nile Deten­tion Alter­na­tives Ini­tia­tive® and oth­er juve­nile jus­tice reform efforts so all young peo­ple are able to thrive and grow into respon­si­ble adults, even when they make mis­takes and vio­late the law in seri­ous ways.

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