Report Reveals ‘A Hidden Key to Combating Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Juvenile Justice’

Report Reveals ‘A Hidden Key to Combating Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Juvenile Justice’

Stacy Brown / NNPA Newswire 

According to new Sentencing Project research, diverting youth from juvenile court involvement should be a central focus in reducing racial and ethnic disparities.

It should also improve outcomes in America’s youth justice systems.

The report’s author wrote that getting arrested in adolescence or having a delinquency case filed in juvenile court clearly damages young people’s futures and increases their subsequent involvement in the justice system.

“Compared with youth who are diverted, youth who are arrested and formally petitioned in court have a far higher likelihood of subsequent arrests and school failure,” wrote Richard A Mendel, Senior Research Fellow and Youth Justice at the Sentencing Project.

“Pre-arrest and pre-court diversion can avert these bad outcomes,” Mendel concluded.

According to Mendel’s research, Black youth are far more likely to be arrested than their white peers and far less likely to be diverted from court following arrest.

Other youth of color – including Latinx youth, Tribal youth, and Asian/Pacific Islander youth – are also less likely than their white peers to be diverted.

“The lack of diversion opportunities for youth of color is pivotal because the greater likelihood of formal processing in court means that youth of color accumulate longer court histories, leading to harsher consequences for any subsequent arrest,” Mendel asserted.

“Expanding diversion opportunities for youth of color, therefore, represents a crucial, untapped opportunity to address continuing disproportionality in juvenile justice,” he noted.

The in-depth analysis of the juvenile justice system’s unequal and limited use of diversion from court involvement, particularly for Black youth, found that in 2019, 52% of delinquency cases involving white youth were handled informally (diverted), far higher than the share of cases diverted involving Black youth (40%).

The report found the glaring disparity between Black and white youth in every major offense category.

“Overwhelming research finds that diverting youth from the court system yields better outcomes for young people’s futures and public safety,” Mendel insisted.

“Yet diversion remains sorely underutilized, especially for youth of color, and unequal treatment in diversion is a key driver for even larger disparities in confinement later in the process.”

Released on Aug. 30, the report, “Diversion: A Hidden Key to Combating Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Juvenile Justice,” examined decades of research showing how educational, career and public safety outcomes are better for youth diverted away from juvenile courts.

It provided a primer on diversion and its impact on racial equity – specifically, the report revealed that:

  • Compared to youth formally involved in court, youth diverted from court have a far lower likelihood of subsequent arrest.
  • They also are far less likely to be incarcerated, commit less violence, have higher school completion rates and college enrollment, and earn higher incomes in adulthood.

Mendel found that disparities in diversion result both from subjective biases against youth and families of color and from seemingly neutral diversion rules and practices that cause disproportionate harm to youth of color either by unnecessarily limiting eligibility for diversion or by making it difficult for youth of color to complete diversion successfully.

Many states and localities have recently adopted new strategies to expand and improve diversion, many of which show substantial promise, Mendel further discovered.

“However, efforts to expand diversion opportunities to date have most often lacked an explicit and determined focus on reducing racial and ethnic disparities – an essential ingredient for success,” he added.

In his conclusion, Mendel said the evidence leaves no doubt that the justice system “is toxic for youth and should be employed only in cases when young people pose a serious and imminent threat to the safety and well-being of others.”

“For most young people, diversion yields better public safety and youth development outcomes than formal processing in juvenile court – and for much less money,” he wrote.

However, youth of color are not being offered diversion in the same numbers as white youth.

“Racial and ethnic disparities at diversion play a significant role in propelling system-wide disparities and represent a key reason why efforts to improve equity in juvenile justice have achieved so little progress to date,” Mendel added.

For all these reasons, the diversion stage of the juvenile court process should be a top priority for youth justice reform, he stated.

“Advocates should push for, and system leaders should take aggressive action to address the disparities highlighted in this report,” Mendel wrote.

“Combined, the reforms recommended here to expand the use of diversion and to enhance supportive community-led programming for diverted youth offer perhaps the most important and promising avenue currently available to reduce disparities and to improve youth justice systems nationwide.”

August is National Minority Donor Awareness Month

August is National Minority Donor Awareness Month, which focuses attention on the need for minority blood and organ donors. The focus of the awareness campaign is to increase participation in donor programs in order to save lives.  According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, communities of color have much higher rates of high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and heart disease, all of which increase the risk for kidney disease. Black Americans are almost four times more likely, and Latino Americans are 1.3 times more likely, to have kidney failure compared to White Americans. Despite the higher risk, data shows Black and Latino patients on dialysis are less likely to be placed on the transplant waitlist and have a lower likelihood of transplantation. 

As of 2021, the organ with the most patients waiting for transplants in the U.S. was kidneys, followed by livers. Over 100 thousand patients were in need of a kidney at that time. Within the African-American, Asian, Hispanic, Native American, and Pacific Islander-American communities, the need for transplants becomes even more dire. Minorities make up 57% of those on the organ waiting list. Due to chronic conditions, minority patients see an increased need for transplants affecting the heart, kidney, pancreas, and liver.

Bone Marrow
Because only about 30% of patients can find a fully matched donor within their family, most people in need of a bone marrow transplant are matched through the registry. Yet despite its large size, this volunteer registry lacks ethnic and racial diversity. For example, a Black person has a 29% chance of finding a matched donor in the registry, while a white person has a 77% chance. People who are American Indian and Alaska Native have a 57% chance of finding a registry match, Asian and Pacific Islander patients at 47%, and Hispanic or Latino patients at 48%. People of color make up a small percentage of all donors, making it difficult to find matches for people with cancer who are not white or who are of mixed race and ethnicity.

Organ Transplant
African Americans make up the largest group of minorities in need of an organ transplant. In 2019, blacks made up 12.8 percent of the national population. Thirty-eight percent of African Americans stated they would not donate organs, compared to 10% of whites. When asked why not, African Americans stated “personal reasons” followed by “if I am an organ donor, I won’t get the necessary medical attention” as their top choices. Although many black and Asian patients can receive a transplant from non-minority donors, for many, the best match will come from a donor from the same ethnic background.

It is important to note that organ donation is not based on race or ethnicity. Anyone can donate because all organs can save a life. And while the race of blood donors and blood recipients typically do not matter as long as their blood types are compatible, individuals who are Black (including African American or other individuals of African descent) can have unique needs.

Sickle Cell Blood Needs
Black patients continue to face racial inequities in the fight against sickle cell disease. Unlike other diseases, there have been fewer health resources available to help those suffering from sickle cell disease in comparison to similar diseases. Today, blood transfusions for patients with sickle cell disease remain one of the primary treatments to help alleviate the pain of this disease. Blood transfused to patients with rare blood types, like those with sickle cell disease, must be matched very closely to reduce the risk of complications. These patients are more likely to find a compatible blood match from a blood donor of the same race or ethnicity.

New initiative to make UC Davis Health a leader in organ transplant equity

Call To Action
Part of being informed includes us practicing good health habits. Get regular exercise, and increase fruits and vegetables in your diet. Limit saturated and trans fats, sodium, and added sugars and control portion sizes. The healthier we are, the fewer transplants will be needed.

Living donation does not change life expectancy and does not appear to increase the risk of kidney failure. In general, most people with a single normal kidney have few or no problems. Help us spread the word about the importance of minority blood and organ donation.

  1. Learn more about organ donation. Donate Life
  2. Hashtag It–#NationalMinorityDonorAwarenessDay
    Share this post on your social media platform to help increase awareness about this issue impacting our people.
  3. Share your story

If you’re a donor or a recipient, share your success story to encourage others to become donors.

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