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Latinx Disparities in Youth Incarceration

July 15, 2021
Josh Rovner
Latinx youth are 28 percent more likely to be incarcerated than their white peers, a sharp improvement over the course of the decade.

Latinx youth were 28% more likely to be detained or committed in juvenile facilities than their white peers, according to nationwide data collected in October 2019 and recently released. In 2011, Latinx youth’s incarceration rate was 80% higher than their white peers, a rate roughly equivalent to the preceding 10 years. The disparity fell in 2013, 2015, 2017, and 2019. Though still significant, the Latinx-white placement disparity has dropped by roughly one-third since 2011.1)Most data in this report are derived from Sickmund, M., Sladky, T.J., Puzzanchera, C., & Kang, W. (2021). Easy Access to the Census of Juveniles in Residential Placement. National Center for Juvenile Justice. https://www.ojjdp.gov/ojstatbb/ezacjrp/

Juvenile facilities, including 1,510 detention centers, residential treatment centers, group homes, and youth prisons2)Puzzanchera, C., Hockenberry, S., Sladky, T.J., and Kang, W. (2020). Juvenile Residential Facility Census Databook. National Center for Juvenile Justice. https://www.ojjdp.gov/ojstatbb/jrfcdb/ held 36,479 youths as of October 2019. (These data do not include the 653 people under 18 in prisons at year-end 20193)Carson, E.A. (2020). Prisoners in 2019. Bureau of Justice Statistics. NCJ 25115. https://bjs.ojp.gov/content/pub/pdf/p19.pdf or the estimated 2,900 people under 18 in jails at midyear 2019.4)Zeng, Z. and Minton, T. (2021). Jail Inmates in 2019. Bureau of Justice Statistics. NCJ 255608. https://bjs.ojp.gov/content/pub/pdf/ji19.pdf)

Across the 42 states that are home to at least 8,000 Latinx youths, Latinx youth are more likely to be in custody than white youth in 31 states and less likely in 11 states.

Between 2011 and 2019, juvenile placements fell by 41%. During these years, Latinx youth placements declined faster than white youth placements (26% vs. 19%), resulting in a smaller but still considerable disparity.

Nationally, the youth placement rate was 114 per 100,000. The Latinx youth placement rate was 92 per 100,000, compared to the white youth placement rate of 72 per 100,000. Disparities grew by more than 10% in 13 states and decreased by at least 10% in 22 states.

  • In five states, Latinx youth are at least 50% more likely to be held in placement as are white youth: Maryland, Washington state, Virginia, Texas, and Tennessee.
  • Mississippi and Minnesota have seen their disparity grow by at least one-fifth.
  • Five states decreased their racial disparity by at least half: New Mexico, Missouri, Florida, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.
Latinx/White Youth Placement Rates per 100,000; 2019
State Latinx Rate White Rate L/W Racial Disparity
Alabama 65 106 0.6
Arizona 67 62 1.1
Arkansas 129 96 1.3
California 113 48 2.4
Colorado 160 76 2.1
Connecticut 36 7 5.1
Delaware 61 25 2.4
Florida 7 90 0.1
Georgia 47 40 1.2
Hawaii 61 25 2.4
Idaho 176 137 1.3
Illinois 39 32 1.2
Iowa 116 83 1.4
Kansas 110 81 1.4
Kentucky 75 89 0.8
Louisiana 41 49 0.8
Maryland 55 29 1.9
Massachusetts 108 19 5.7
Michigan 88 85 1.0
Minnesota 198 73 2.7
Mississippi 40 27 1.5
Missouri 24 80 0.3
Nebraska 197 69 2.9
Nevada 117 140 0.8
New Jersey 58 14 4.1
New Mexico 58 277 0.2
New York 37 30 1.2
North Carolina 34 37 0.9
Ohio 86 84 1.0
Oklahoma 37 53 0.7
Oregon 169 146 1.2
Pennsylvania 108 73 1.5
South Carolina 49 63 0.8
Tennessee 42 27 1.6
Texas 116 74 1.6
Utah 110 38 2.9
Virginia 103 57 1.8
Washington 112 60 1.9
Wisconsin 53 43 1.2
Wyoming 202 242 1.2
U.S. Total 92 72 1.3
The table above and the figure on page 2 are limited to the 42 states with at least 8,000 Latinx residents between 10- and 17-years old.
Numbers greater than one in the last column reveal the extent to which Latinx youth are more likely to be incarcerated than white youth. For example, in Arizona, Latinx youth are 1.1 times (approximately 10%) more likely to be held in a juvenile facility than their white peers. Numbers less than one reveal white youth are more likely than Latinx youth to be held in that state.
Change in Latinx/White Placement Disparity; 2011 vs. 2019

5 Hawaii’s Latinx-white disparity changed from a reverse disparity in 2011 (when white youth were more likely than Latinx to be incarcerated) to a standard disparity.
 

Footnotes[+]

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