Data Show Minority Juveniles Arrested More Often

AP, May 21, 2009

With data showing black and Hispanic juveniles in New York arrested, detained and confined to custody far more often than whites, state officials are looking for ways to reduce that disproportion.

Data show minority children statewide are arrested almost twice as often as whites, are six times likelier to be detained awaiting trial and are five times likelier to be confined to custody afterward, according to New York’s Division of Criminal Justice Services

The disparity is larger in New York City, where the state Office of Children and Family Services said 6,984 black and 3,966 Hispanic youths were arrested in 2006, compared with 966 white juveniles.

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At the symposium, Barry Krisberg of the National Council on Crime and Delinquency said subtle, unrecognized bias is part of the problem. Laura John Ridolfi of the W. Haywood Burns Institute said approaches in other cities have worked after collecting information and discussing problems in the community. That has produced answers like phone calling Hispanic juveniles, with bilingual callers, shortly before a court appearance to make sure they show up, instead of later getting arrested on bench warrants.

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“Our white client base is almost none,” said Tamara Steckler, attorney with the Legal Aid Society’s Juvenile Rights Practice in New York City. She said family court was once meant to divert youths from the criminal justice system, calling it now “a social experiment that has failed miserably.”

The most common charges on which minority juveniles are arrested are misdemeanors like shoplifting, graffiti, school fights and trespassing, where police have discretion not to make arrests, said Mishi Faruqui, director of the Youth Justice Program for the Children’s Defense Fund-NY. {snip}

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