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|
|District of Columbia||0||363||—|
|↑1||This fact sheet addresses black-white placement disparities. Fact sheets on Latino and American Indian disparities are forthcoming.|
|↑2||Hockenberry, S., Wachter, A., & Sladky, A. (Sept. 2016). Juvenile Residential Facility Census, 2014: Selected Findings (NCJ 250123).|
|↑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.”|
|↑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.|