Posted Oct. 2, 2008 – A new study is buttressing the widely held assumption that Black youths are getting a raw deal from the U.S. justice system.
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A recent report concludes that African-Americans suffer disproportionate arrest rates and tougher prison sentences than White youths. While Blacks under 17 years old comprise just 17 percent of the nation’s youths, they represent about 30 percent of those arrested, says the report, “Critical Condition: African American Youth in the Justice System,” released this month by the D.C.-based Campaign for Youth Justice.
“It is baffling that we are still faced with this serious problem of racial disparities in our justice system,” said Liz Ryan, president and CEO of Campaign for Youth Justice. “It is time for states to reverse punitive laws that result in the transfer and incarceration of African-American youth in the adult criminal justice system.”
Black youths account for nearly two-thirds (62 percent) of the youths prosecuted in the adult criminal system and are nine times more likely than their White counterparts to be punished with hard adult time.
The infamous “Jena Six” case, in which a half-dozen Black Louisiana youths were initially prosecuted for attempted murder in adult court for their role in a schoolyard fight with a White classmate, the NAACP says.
“It is well documented that African American youth are treated more harshly by the justice system than white youth, for the same offenses, at all stages in the justice system,” said NAACP Washington Bureau Director Hilary O. Shelton. “Recent events in Jena, Louisiana, have brought attention to critical issues facing the African American community including the issues of racial disparities in the justice system.”