The United States’ largest Latino civil rights organization is urging the government to make some changes to the juvenile justice system to allow for more fairness.
The National Council of La Raza (NCLR) has claimed that Latino young people receive “harsher treatment” while in incarcerated than white youth that commit the same crimes.
A recent report commissioned by the NCLR entitled “Reauthorizing the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act: The Impact on Latino Youth” states that “community-based programs” are more effective and cheaper means of rehabilitation than prisons, jails, and detention centers.
Now, the NCLR is asking for a reauthorization of the 1974 act, which expired in 2007, to address the issue of children being treated as adult with a disproportionate number of them being Latino.
Young Latinos are 28 percent more likely than their white counterparts to be arrested. Then, they are 1.4 times more likely to be sent to adult jails.
In a statement presented with the report, Eric Rodriguez, NCLR vice president for Research, Advocacy and Legislation said, “Congress needs to renew this important legislation and embrace community-based programs that reach Latino youth before they come into contact with law enforcement, helping these children stay out of trouble.”
Currently, 90 percent of Latinos 10–17 lives in states that allow young people to be held in adult facilities while awaiting trial if charged as adults.
The study expresses that “for too long, juvenile justice policy has been driven by negative emotions and fear instead of research and real-world experience, which has led to excessively punitive measures that are more harmful than helpful to Latino youth and communities.”
While being treated as adults in the criminal justice system, young Latinos are at higher risk of sexual abuse and suicide, and young people in adult facilities in general show greater occurrence of “educational disconnection.”