As increasingly more youth enter the criminal justice system, the question of racial disparities has begun to surface in a new debate on how race is a factor in the disproportionate number of youth of color transferred into adult courts. The policy brief, "Youths Transferred to Adult Court: Racial Disparities," gives an overview of transfer laws and issues, providing informative estimates of the number of youth being processed into adult courts; presents evidence-based research through an extensive literature review that shows the negative outcomes for youths in adult court, particularly youth of color; and offers recommendations for policy and future research on the racial disparities that affect youth placed in adult courts.
Although treatment of youth of color may vary, the paper shows that "race has both a direct and an indirect effect on transfer decision-making" (p.31). Data collected by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) between 1985-1995 found African-American youth were significantly overrepresented in the number of youth transferred to adult courts over their White counterparts, this finding held true for all offenses, all ages and years. In particular, African-American youth were exceedingly represented a large proportion of drug offenses. Latino youth also constitute a disproportionate number of youth waived to criminal court over their White counterparts.
The policy brief also discusses how racial disparities within the justice system can have a negative impact on the families of youth offenders and communities of color. Families may experience an emotional and financial burden, while minority youth may be targeted more in their communities, all providing a changing dynamic in these structures. "Taken together, the consequences of lessened political power, weakened economic support, disrupted family ties, social marginalization, and the potential for increased crime seem likely to weaken communities of incarcerated youth -- especially communities of color" (p.45). Please contact Jessica Sandoval for a copy of the brief. She can be reached at 202-558-3580 ext. 14 or jsandoval at campaign4youthjustice.org