Study: Minority Youth More Often in State Courts than Whites

Manuel Valdes, The Seattle Times, January 20, 2013

Minority youth are arrested and in the Washington state court system more often than their white counterparts, a recent study commissioned by the state Supreme Court shows. But researchers said that counties aren’t keeping complete data on ethnicity and that the gap between minority and white youth is larger.

Between 2007 and 2011, African-American youth were nearly 250 percent more likely to be referred to juvenile court for prosecution than their white counterparts. They are followed by Native-American youth, who are 80 percent more likely to be referred. Overall, minority youth are 22 percent more likely to be referred.

To determine the ratio, researchers calculated the number of minority youth in a particular aspect of juvenile law and the overall population of each county.

In arrests, minority youth were nearly 85 percent more likely to be arrested than white youth statewide, the study found. But researchers said that number is likely much higher because counties count Latinos as white in their record keeping. Latino is an ethnicity, not a race.

Sarah Veele, one of the researchers from the Washington State Center for Court Research, said there isn’t a federal or state requirement for local agencies to track ethnicity in their juvenile-arrest data, so Latinos are put in the “white” category.


Once minority and white youth get to sentencing, the disparities begin to even out, [researcher Sarah] Veele said, because judges usually follow sentencing guidelines.

“What we’re seeing is that the disparities are occurring earlier, such as arrests, referrals to juvenile court, and as you get deeper the outcomes are relatively comparable,” Veele said.

Veele said this particular study lacks other data points, including severity of charges and crimes as well as criminal history of the youth.


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