The Latinx Data Gap in the Youth Justice System

Posted September 8, 2020
By Alianza for Youth Justice and UCLA’s Latino Policy and Politics Initiative
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This report examines racial and ethnic data at state-level youth justice agencies. It documents inconsistent data categories and reporting practices among Hispanic and Latino youth — a scenario that makes Latino youth less visible within the juvenile justice system.

The publication quantifies this problem with a survey of youth justice agencies in the 11 most populous Latino states and a public records review in all 50 states. Some findings from this work include:

  • In two of the most populous Latino states, agencies failed to identify Latino demographic data in their report.
  • In the other 9 most populated Latino states, agencies reported Latino ethnic data but this information was not found in all reports.
  • States such as Florida, New Mexico, Nevada, and New York, which utilize a single reporting agency, showed consistent racial categories for each contact point.
  • Four state-level agencies — in Arizona, Florida, Nevada, and New Jersey — failed to differentiate between ethnicity and race in their data collection methods and in their reports.

In addition to these findings, the report highlights the experiences of Latino youth, who describe the importance of having their racial and ethnic identity validated by the justice system. It also presents policy and practice recommendations aimed at improving the collection of racial and ethnic juvenile justice data.

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Findings & Stats

Statements & Quotations

Key Takeaway

State-level youth justice agencies are missing — and minimizing — Latino youth

Every state-level youth justice agency should collect ethnic and racial data so that all young people are counted and considered when developing policy. However, research findings confirm that a lack of ethnic data further minimizes Latino youth within the youth justice system.

The varied understanding of race and ethnicity among state-level agencies leads to the misinterpretation of racial and ethnic categories, such as the conflation of race and ethnicity. These misinformed methods taint ethnic data, thereby inflating the white and non-Hispanic youth count while simultaneously undercounting Latino youth. As a result, state-level agencies ignore the presence and needs of the nation’s largest growing population: Latino youth.

This report offers strategies to strengthen demographic data reliability and collection practices across state jurisdictions. It also shares recommendations specific to public system leaders, policymakers, researchers and advocates.