The felony arrest rate among African American/black youth in 2015 was substantially higher than other racial and ethnic groups in California. At 24 arrests per 1,000 youth, the rate among this group is about 8 times higher than the felony arrest rate among white youth.
Encouragingly, nearly all of the 21 counties with data have seen improvements in felony arrest rates for African American/black youth over the past 17 years. Since 1998, San Francisco County saw a particularly sharp, though volatile, decrease, while San Joaquin County experienced the second largest rate drop since that year.
Youth who have contact with the juvenile justice system are at increased risk for a number of negative long-term outcomes when compared with the general youth population. For example, an estimated 30 percent of the youth who enter California’s juvenile justice system have mental health issues and those who have been held in detention have higher rates of attempted suicide and psychiatric disorders than youth who have not been detained. Additional long-term outcomes include injury, substance use and dependency, dropping out of school, and early pregnancy.
Policymakers within the justice, education, and social services systems can play a role in improving the way we address juvenile crime. Policy options include redirecting young offenders toward rehabilitative programs instead of the juvenile justice system and conducting case-specific assessments of an individual’s circumstances.
Currently, there is not a minimum age for entering the juvenile court system in California. If passed, Senate Bill 439, under review by the legislature, would establish 12 years of age as the minimum age over which the juvenile court has jurisdiction in California.