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Black Disparities in Youth Incarceration

September 12, 2017
Despite long-term declines in youth incarceration, the disparity at which black and white youth are held in juvenile facilities has grown. As of 2015, African American youth were five times as likely as white youth to be detained or committed to youth facilities.

African Americans 5X More Likely than Whites to be Held

Black youth were more than five times as likely to be detained or committed compared to white youth, according to data from the Department of Justice collected in October 2015 and recently released.1)This fact sheet addresses black-white placement disparities. Fact sheets on Latino and American Indian disparities are forthcoming. Racial and ethnic disparities have long-plagued juvenile justice systems nationwide, and the new data show the problem is increasing. In 2001, black youth were four times as likely as whites to be incarcerated.

Juvenile facilities, including 1,800 residential treatment centers, detention centers, training schools, and juvenile jails and prisons2)Hockenberry, S., Wachter, A., & Sladky, A. (Sept. 2016). Juvenile Residential Facility Census, 2014: Selected Findings (NCJ 250123). held 48,043 youth as of October 2015.3)Placement statistics throughout this factsheet are calculated from Sickmund, M., Sladky, T.J., Kang, W., & Puzzanchera, C. (2017). “Easy Access to the Census of Juveniles in Residential Placement.” Forty-four percent of these youth were African American, despite the fact that African Americans comprise only 16 percent of all youth in the United States.4)Puzzanchera, C., Sladky, A. and Kang, W. (2016). “Easy Access to Juvenile Populations: 1990-2015.” Youth is defined as those between the ages of 10 and 17, inclusive. African American youth are more likely to be in custody than white youth in every state but one, Hawaii.

Between 2001 and 2015, overall juvenile placements fell by 54 percent. However, white youth placements have declined faster than black youth placements, resulting in a worsening of already significant racial disparity.

Nationally, the youth rate of incarceration was 152 per 100,000. Black youth placement rate was 433 per 100,000, compared to a white youth placement rate of 86 per 100,000. Overall, the racial disparity between black and white youth in custody increased 22 percent since 2001. Racial disparities grew in 37 states and decreased in 13.

    • In six states, African American youth are at least 10 times as likely to be held in placement as are white youth: New Jersey, Wisconsin, Montana, Delaware, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.
    • Five states saw their racial disparity at least double: Maryland, Montana, Connecticut, Delaware, and Wisconsin.
    • Three states decreased their racial disparity by at least half: Vermont, West Virginia, and New Hampshire.
Black/White Youth Placement Rate per 100,000, 2015
State White Rate Black Rate B/W Racial Disparity
Alabama 97 331 3.41
Alaska 176 710 4.03
Arizona 75 277 3.69
Arkansas 93 522 5.61
California 76 711 9.36
Colorado 108 701 6.49
Connecticut 14 145 10.36
Delaware 42 505 12.02
District of Columbia 0 363
Florida 97 445 4.59
Georgia 42 235 5.6
Hawaii 36 0 0
Idaho 179 306 1.71
Illinois 44 426 9.68
Indiana 154 621 4.03
Iowa 141 1,030 7.3
Kansas 114 721 6.32
Kentucky 76 361 4.75
Louisiana 61 403 6.61
Maine 56 333 5.95
Maryland 30 238 7.93
Massachusetts 22 222 10.09
Michigan 96 479 4.99
Minnesota 75 648 8.64
Mississippi 32 131 4.09
Missouri 112 516 4.61
Montana 113 1,485 13.14
Nebraska 123 811 6.59
Nevada 131 736 5.62
New Hampshire 47 206 4.38
New Jersey 11 337 30.64
New Mexico 86 472 5.49
New York 54 305 5.65
North Carolina 22 164 7.45
North Dakota 135 683 5.06
Ohio 98 560 5.71
Oklahoma 84 516 6.14
Oregon 235 1,103 4.69
Pennsylvania 93 862 9.27
Rhode Island 97 693 7.14
South Carolina 89 242 2.72
South Dakota 162 341 2.1
Tennessee 65 195 3
Texas 94 417 4.44
Utah 73 606 8.3
Vermont 46 189 4.11
Virginia 59 410 6.95
Washington 88 487 5.53
West Virginia 301 566 1.88
Wisconsin 56 846 15.11
Wyoming 243 1,166 4.8
U.S. Total 86 433 5.03
Change in Black/White Racial Disparity in Youth Incarceration, 2001 vs. 2015racial disparities in youth 1 graph for website
 

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