The federal Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act requires states to identify the extent to which minorities are over-represented in their juvenile justice systems, determine the reasons for that over-representation, and take steps to reduce it. Although approximately seven out of 10 children confined to Massachusetts’ state facilities are youth of color, the state has never collected the data necessary to determine why this is the case. While it has written plans to decrease minority over-representation, none of them have been implemented. Of the $35 million the state has received over the last five years for youth-related programs, less than $600,000, or .01%, has been allocated to programs specifically designed to minimize racial disparities.
The ACLU documented these shortcomings and disparities in a 26-page report released in June 2003, entitled Disproportionate Minority Confinement in Massachusetts: Failures in Assessing and Addressing Overrepresentation of Minorities in the Massachusetts’ Juvenile Justice System. Since the release of this report, the ACLU has engaged in numerous forums and dialogues with government officials, law enforcement officials, community members, academics and others to address the problem of disproportionate minority contact and its impact on Massachusetts’ communities of color.
ACLU attorneys are currently conducting research for a follow-up report on Massachusett’s juvenile justice system.
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