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Racial Disparities Persist in Youth Incarceration

Despite significant drops in youth incarceration, youth of color remain vastly more likely to be incarcerated than their white peers. New data released by The Sentencing Project reveal Black youth and Tribal youths’ disproportionate incarceration is largely unchanged compared to 10 years prior, while Latinx youths’ incarceration disparities with their white peers have been reduced. The Sentencing Project’s new fact sheets show state-by-state incarceration rates by race and ethnicity and highlight where the problem is getting worse and better, the Sentencing Project reports. Black youth are almost five times as likely as their white peers to be held in juvenile facilities, an equivalent ratio to 10 years ago. As of 2021, in Connecticut, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, and Illinois, Black youth were at least 10 times as likely to be held in placement as white youth.


Latinx youth are 16 percent more likely to be incarcerated than their white peers, a sharp improvement over the decade. As of 2021, in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Connecticut, Latinx youth are at least 4 times as likely to be held in placement as white youth. Tribal youth are almost four times as likely as their white peers to be held in juvenile facilities, an equivalent ratio to 10 years ago. As of 2021, in Minnesota, South Dakota and North Carolina, Tribal youth are at least five times as likely to be held in placement as white youth. “These new data should serve as a reminder that despite the impressive progress in reducing youth incarceration, the legacy of the Superpredator Era has yet to be erased,” according to Josh Rovner, Director of Youth Justice at The Sentencing Project and the author of the new publications. “Our systems of justice are much harsher on youth of color.”


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