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Juvenile incarceration and race

At Voices for Children, we have begun a journey to investigate race and equity issues in Nebraska and how we can better tell the story of ALL Nebraska kids.  In order to do that, we need to take a look at some data and break it down by race.  Doing this breakdown allows us to see how kids of different races are disproportionately affected in Nebraska.

This year’s legislative session has dealt with quite a few juvenile justice issues, and we have been looking at incarceration of juveniles for non-violent crimes.  After a bit of number crunching we found some pretty striking results for Nebraska’s youth of color and the disproportionality of incarceration.

From thinkprogress.org

When looking at youth who are living in residential placement (incarcerated) for drugs, public order violations, technical violations, and status offenses (what we term “non-violent crimes” from here on) we can see some pretty drastic differences in sentencing patterns based on race.  The data shows us that among Nebraska teens in 2010:

  • Black teens were jailed 8.1 times more often for non-violent crimes than white teens.
  • American Indian/Alaska Native teens had 3.7 times the risk of being jailed for non-violent crimes than white teens.
  • Nebraska teens of Hispanic ethnicity were incarcerated 2 times more often than white teens for non-violent crimes.
  • Teens of 2 or more races or of other non-defined race had 3.3 times the risk of being jailed for non-violent crimes than their white counterparts.
  • Asian/Pacific Islander teens were actually less likely to be incarcerated for non-violent crimes than white teens.  In fact, white teens were incarcerated for non-violent crimes 1.3 times more often than Asian teens.

The causes of the disproportionate representation of kids of color in the juvenile justice system are varied and the impacts of the higher odds of incarceration are immensely detrimental to Nebraska’s kids.

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