Black Youth Overrepresented Among Felony Arrests in California
As a whole, California’s juvenile felony arrest rate declined by 65% between 1998 and 2014, according to updated data on Kidsdata. All counties with available data saw declines during this period. Still, Black youth continue to be disproportionately represented in the juvenile justice system, both statewide and nationally.
Black youth in California are arrested at a rate that is higher than expected, given their representation in the population. In 2014, Black youth accounted for nearly one-fourth of all juvenile felony arrests in the state, though they made up only 5% of the state's child population.
Between 1998-2014, California’s Black child population dropped by one-third. Yet during that same time period, the percentage of felony arrests involving this population grew by 18%. Arrest data for White and Latino children more closely mirror their proportion of the state’s population (arrest data for other demographic groups are not available at this time).
In 2014, Black youth in California had felony arrest rates that were more than four times that of Latino youth, and more than six times that of White youth. And that gap has widened over time. Specifically, 50 of every 1,000 Black youth were arrested for felonies in 1998, but that was only two times the rate of Latino youth, and three times the rate of White youth.
Youth who come in contact with the juvenile justice system tend to be at increased risk for substance use and dependency, dropping out of school, early pregnancy, and injury. Youth who have been detained have higher rates of attempted suicide and psychiatric disorders than youth in the general population.
Research has identified a number of risk factors for juvenile crime. A history of maltreatment, significant educational challenges, poverty, separation from family members, parental incarceration, exposure to violence in the home and community, mental illness, and substance use or dependency each are related to an increased likelihood of involvement with the juvenile justice system.
Policymakers within the justice, social services, and education systems can play a role in improving the way society addresses juvenile crime. Steps should be taken to address the mental health needs of juvenile offenders by offering cognitive behavioral therapy, behavioral programs, group counseling, mentoring, and assistance in graduating high school—all in a culturally congruent way (PDF). Furthermore, better policies can be implemented to decrease the likelihood of committing additional offenses, and to assist with rehabilitation and re-entry following release from detention.
Fight Crime: Invest in Kids—California
National Center for Youth Law: Juvenile Justice
"We Ain't Crazy! Just Coping With a Crazy System" Pathways into the Black Population for Eliminating Mental Health Disparities (PDF), California Dept. of Mental Health
An Impact Evaluation of Three Strategies Created to Reduce Disproportionate Minority Contact and the Detention Population, U.S. Dept. of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention
Breaking Schools’ Rules: A Statewide Study of How School Discipline Relates to Students’ Success and Juvenile Justice Involvement, Council of State Governments Justice Center and Public Policy Research Institute
The Prevalence of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) in the Lives of Juvenile Offenders, Journal of Juvenile Justice
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Juvenile Felony Arrest Rate, by Race/Ethnicity