Latinx youth are nonexistent in juvenile justice data
The largest ethnic minority group still invisible in 2020
It is no surprise that the juvenile justice system is highly scrutinized, but according to statistics from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), Hispanic youth are not correctly represented in the justice system.
According to the U.S. Census, the Latino and Hispanic population is the largest ethnic or racial minority group in the country.
So why the disproportion?
Some states are worse than the national average. States like Utah, Montana, and Pennsylvania are more than three times likely to see Latino youth held in place over the white youth. In Massachusetts, that statistic more than doubles.
But in the data, things get murky.
“We’re basically invisible,” said Marcia Rincon-Gallardo, the director of Noxtin and executive director of the Alianza for Youth Justice.
When talking about the inconsistency of reporting, she says legal institutions take part in the problem.
“Each one of those institutions counts Latinos a particular way and sometimes it’s apples and oranges to try to aggregate it. What we found are incredible inconsistencies even in the 11 most populated Latino states and so we’re very concerned,” said Rincon-Gallardo.
As for data on race and ethnicity reporting at the state level? It’s close to nonexistent.
Melissa Sickmund, the director of the National Center for Juvenile Justice blames the undercounts there on a lack of funding.
“Of late because the money available to states for juvenile justice has gotten really low, a number of states have or are considering no longer playing the [government’s] game,” she said.
As funding is taken from states’ juvenile justice departments, so do the reports on racial and ethnic data.
Since most states don’t keep a record, most Hispanic youth wind up being counted as “white.”
In regards to terminology, Rincon-Gallardo says that its use in data collection is important.
“Hispanic” refers to people who are or have ancestors from a Spanish speaking country, but does not include all countries in Latin America, but does include Spain.
“Latino” refers to those who are from Latin America or latin american descent, and does include non-spanish speaking countries like Brazil.
Rincon-Gallardo says the correct demographics should be collected and publicly available throughout the juvenile justice system. Without that, the justice system does not have an accurate idea of those incarcerated.