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Are All Nebraska’s Children Equal?

Earlier this year, the University of Nebraska – Omaha released a comprehensive report on youth of color in our juvenile justice system. For those who know the juvenile justice system well, perhaps it’s no surprise that what the study found was that youth of color are disproportionately represented at every level of the juvenile justice system statewide. And while these results may not be surprising, they are deeply disturbing in a state which claims that “the good life” is accessible for all children. When youth of color come into contact with the juvenile justice system, they are more likely to be pushed deeper into a system that study after study has shown diminish children’s likelihood of a successful transition to adulthood.

Disproportionate minority contact (DMC) within juvenile justice is an area that federal law requires Nebraska to work diligently to address. Taking the time to fund a comprehensive study of the scope and breadth of the problem is an important first step, but there’s much more work to be done. How can we as Nebraskans tackle the implicit biases that make our juvenile justice systems so unequal? What policy reforms does our state need to ensure all of our children have equal access to second chances and programming that helps them rather than hurts them? What strategies and programs should we be funding?

UNO’s report has some interesting recommendations that are worth looking at and implementing, but we want to hear what you think, too. Any truly successful response to DMC  will need to involve a broader community who’s willing to look at unpleasant data, face some harsh realities, and commit personally and professionally to addressing the institutional racism that puts the future of many Nebraskans in jeopardy.


Thank you to taking the time to share!


  1. REPLY
    Ashley Hachat says

    I am a student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and am writing a paper on the difference between immigrant children and US-born children and the difference between their education and healthcare opportunities. I was wondering if you had a comment on this issue? I would really appreciate it. My email is ahachat@huskers.unl.edu. Thanks! Ashley

  2. REPLY
    Bryon Hill says

    The first step is exploring the history of the racial dynamics in this state. Many would look at those numbers and take no issue with the disparity they reflect. As a black person, I can only offer my viewpoint. There is an assumption that since Black Americans have reached a certain level of assimilation into the dominant culture, that our cultural norms and family structures are simply reflective of the dominant culture norms and family structure minus the white-washing. The intrinsic differences are often overlooked or labeled as mere dysfunction. This colors the way that professionals at all levels perceive black children and families making it easier to justify removals, arrests and other procedures that destroy the black family unit. Black children/families are expected to function in a way that mirror their white counterparts without any considerations for how their specific experience shaped the way in which they function. Black people are held on the bottom rungs of the professional side of the child welfare and JJ complex and their viewpoints/insights are dismissed by the power structure. This limits the perspectives within the system and lowers the cultural competency collectively. The people most directly in position to decrease these numbers end up driving the numbers because they are not forced to step outside of their own biases when working in the service of these kids and families.

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