For over ten years, NCLR has worked to increase public awareness of juvenile justice issues that impact Latino youth. Many jurisdictions across the country do not capture ethnicity data on youth throughout their juvenile justice systems, rendering many Latino youth virtually invisible. However, available data suggest that Hispanic youth have disproportionate contact with all stages of the juvenile justice system, from being stopped by law enforcement to their arrest, detention, waiver to adult criminal court, and sentencing. More accurate and comprehensive ethnicity data would enable jurisdictions to identify the need to implement services targeted specifically toward Latino youth to reduce their contact with the system.
Moreover, Latino youth face a number of other challenges in the system. They are at substantial risk of being detained with adults, which has been shown to lead to increased rates of recidivism and suicide. These youth need greater access to culturally and linguistically competent delinquency prevention services and alternatives to detention that would keep them from entering or moving deeper into the juvenile justice system. Though many such effective programs are currently being provided by Latino community-based organizations across the country, more are needed. Additionally, overly punitive antigang laws that do not address the root of the problem or provide for effective holistic services too often harm youth rather than prevent gang involvement.
NCLR conducts research, policy analysis, and advocacy on federal juvenile justice issues and works closely with community-based organizations across the country to support advocacy on juvenile justice reform in local jurisdictions. NCLR believes that a fairer and more just system can be achieved, protecting communities and strengthening the well-being of Hispanic youth now and in the future.
Recent Juvenile Justice Publications
- School-to-Prison Pipeline: Zero Tolerance for Latino Youth
- Reauthorizing the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act: The Impact on Latino Youth (white paper)
- Latino Youth in the Juvenile Justice System (fact sheet)
- Latino Youth, Immigration, and the Juvenile Justice System (fact sheet)
Recent Juvenile Justice Presentations
- April 2011 Webinar: Immigration Issues in the Juvenile Justice System
- February 2011 Webinar: The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act
- December 2010 Webinar: Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI)
- December 2010 Webinar: Models for Change
Additional Juvenile Justice Publications
- Just the Facts: A Snapshot of Incarcerated Hispanic Youth
- America’s Invisible Children: Latino Youth and the Failure of Justice
- Promote Safe Communities and Brighter Futures
- Inequality Persists: Latest Information on Latino Youth in the US Justice System
- La Desigualdad Persiste: Informacion Sobre la Juventud Latina en el Sistema de Justicia
- Overcoming Language and Cultural Barriers Using Evidence-Based Practices
- Four Critical Issues Affecting Latino Youth in the Juvenile Justice System
Like all Americans, Hispanics are concerned about crime and the effects it has on youth, families, and communities. Unfortunately, Latinos do not always feel confident that our criminal justice system properly and fairly addresses crime. Many have negative perceptions of the system because they observe ineffective responses to violent crimes, public offenses, and substance abuse. Some Latinos have been treated unjustly by the system or have been arbitrarily disciplined. Others recognize the disproportionate number of Latinos serving long – and in some cases unjust – prison sentences for nonviolent offenses. In addition, Latino youth are disproportionately represented in the juvenile justice system and receive harsher punishments than their peers, even when they commit the same offense.