Fewer NJ Teens Being Locked Up in Juvenile Detention Centers
A new report finds the number of teenagers being sent to juvenile detention facilities both in New Jersey and across the country has dropped significantly in recent years, but youth of color are a lot more likely to be locked up than their white counterparts.
"From 1999 to 2011, there's been a 58 percent decline in New Jersey in the number of teenagers who are held in residential facilities, while over the same time period that compares to 43 percent for a national average," said Joshua Rovner, state advocacy associate for The Sentencing Project, who also said at the same time "in Jersey, we see youth of color being held in placement at a much higher rate than elsewhere."
Rovner said the overall incarceration rate for juveniles in New Jersey is low compared to the rest of the country. However, the Garden State ranks 15th-highest in locking up African-American youth, and 14th-highest for Latinos.
"Unfortunately, black kids are 12.5 times more likely to be locked up than our white kids, and the evidence is that for most offenses, there's no difference in behavior between white youth and youth of color," he said. "They are just as likely to be using drugs, they are just as likely to get into fights, they are just as likely to do the typical teenager misbehavior, but youth of color are much more likely to be locked up."
He said this racial disparity is something that should concern us and needs to be addressed.
U.S. Sens. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) have introduced a bill to reauthorize the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act. The measure would require states to identify and reduce racial and ethnic disparities at various points of contact with the juvenile justice system.
Since 2000, 27 juvenile detention facilities have closed in New Jersey.