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[LAAMN-ANN] Youth of Color More Likely to be Tried as Adults

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  • Tommy McDonald
    For Immediate Release February 2, 2000 Contact: Tommy McDonald, Liz Heller, Michael Shellenberger, 415-255-1946 California: Youth of Color 2.5 Times More
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 3, 2000
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      For Immediate Release

      February 2, 2000

      Contact:
      Tommy McDonald, Liz Heller, Michael Shellenberger, 415-255-1946

      California: Youth of Color 2.5 Times More Likely than White
      Kids to be Tried as Adults; 8.3 Times More Likely to be
      Incarcerated by Adult Court, New Study Finds

      NAACP, MALDEF, Other Civil Rights Groups Demand State
      Investigation into Racial Bias

      Color of Justice Study First in a Series by New "Building
      Blocks for Youth" Initiative

      SACRAMENTO/LOS ANGELES, CA - California civil rights leaders
      and children's advocates released a new study February 2
      that shows that African American, Latino and Asian American
      youth are significantly more likely to be transferred to
      adult court and sentenced to incarceration than white youths
      who commit comparable crimes.

      At Sacramento and Los Angeles news conferences Wednesday,
      civil rights groups demanded that Governor Gray Davis
      investigate the report's findings and take measures to
      address racial disparities in juvenile transfers.

      "Even at a time of heightened public awareness of racism in
      the criminal justice system, it's shocking to find such huge
      discrepancies in the way Latino and African American kids
      are treated," said Beatriz Lopez-Flores, Vice President of
      Community Education and Public Policy for MALDEF. "A justice
      system that displays such blatant bias is a system in dire
      need of reform. We're calling on Governor Davis to send a
      clear message that discrimination is unacceptable in
      California's justice system and we hope the Governor will do
      whatever it takes to ensure that youth of color receive fair
      treatment, whether they are tried as juveniles or adults."

      Though past studies have documented that minorities are
      overrepresented in the juvenile justice system, this study
      by the Justice Policy Institute (JPI), a San Francisco, CA-
      and Washington, DC- based think-tank on criminal justice, is
      the first to document the cumulative effect of racial bias
      when youths are transferred to the adult system.

      "The imbalances this study reveals are stark, vast and
      deeply disturbing," said Dan Macallair, associate director
      of JPI and co-author of The Color of Justice. "Discrimination
      against kids of color accumulates at every stage of the
      justice system and skyrockets when juveniles are tried as
      adults. California has a double standard: throw kids of
      color behind bars, but rehabilitate white kids who commit
      comparable crimes."

      The report focuses primarily on data from Los Angeles
      County, which accounts for 40 percent of cases transferred
      to adult court in the state. L.A. is also the only county
      that keeps a detailed record regarding its transfers.

      The study found that:

      * After transfer to the adult system, African American youth
      offenders are 18.4 times more likely, Asian youth offenders
      are 4.5 times more likely, and Latino youth offenders are
      7.3 times more likely than white youth offenders to be
      sentenced by an adult court to CYA confinement.

      * Compared to white youths, minority youths are 2.8 times
      more likely to be arrested for a violent crime, 6.2 times
      more likely to wind up in adult court, and 7 times more
      likely to be sent to prison by adult court.

      * Compared to white youths accused of similar crimes,
      minority youth offenders are somewhat more likely to be
      sentenced to CYA facilities by juvenile courts (minorities
      constitute 77.0 percent of violent crime arrestees and 84.5
      percent of CYA sentencings). But minority youth are much
      more likely to be sentenced to CYA facilities after transfer
      to adult courts (77.0 percent of arrests, but 91.1 percent
      of CYA sentencings).

      JPI researchers conducted the study using data from 1993 to
      1999 collected from the Los Angeles County Probation
      Department Research Division, Los Angeles County District
      Attorney's Office, California Youth Authority Research
      Division, California Department of Justice Criminal Justice
      Statistics Center, Department of Finance Demographic
      Research Division and the U.S. Census Bureau.

      "The juvenile justice system was founded 100 years ago with
      the idea that youth offenders can be rehabilitated," said
      Mark Soler, President of the Youth Law Center, a San
      Francisco, CA and Washington, DC- based child advocacy
      group. "Yet today, even though youth crime is dropping
      steadily, record numbers of juveniles are being transferred
      to the adult court and thrown behind bars. As this study
      shows, these policies are hitting minority kids the
      hardest."

      The Color of Justice, co-authored by Macallair and Mike
      Males, PhD, a renowned author and researcher on juvenile
      justice issues at UC Santa Cruz, is the first of five
      reports to be released this year by the national "Building
      Blocks for Youth" initiative. The multi-year initiative
      works to protect youth of color in the justice system and to
      promote rational and effective juvenile justice policies
      through a combination of research, analysis of decision
      making, direct advocacy, constituency building, and public
      education.

      Building Blocks partners include the Youth Law Center,
      American Bar Association Juvenile Justice Center, Center
      on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, Juvenile Law Center,
      Minorities in Law Enforcement, National Council on Crime
      and Delinquency, and Pretrial Services Resource Center. The
      initiative is supported by the federal Office of Juvenile
      Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the Annie E. Casey,
      Ford, Walter Johnson, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur,
      and Rockefeller Foundations, and the Center on Crime,
      Communities and Culture of the Open Society Institute.

      ###


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