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Eliminate Racial and Ethnic Disparities

The National Juvenile Justice Network (NJJN) and its state-based organizational members are collectively committed to realizing the goal of a fair and just juvenile justice system. NJJN believes that significant racial disparities pervade the juvenile justice system and lie at the heart of many of the justice system’s problems. 

In nearly every state, in every offense category—person, property, drug, and public order—youth of color receive harsher sentences and fewer services than white youth who have committed the same category of offenses. Confidential youth surveys show that during adolescence, youth of all races and ethnicities become involved in violence, property crimes and other delinquent behaviors with only modest differences in the frequency and severity of their lawbreaking. Yet African-American youth are arrested at dramatically higher rates than white youth for all types of crime. Once arrested, they are more likely to be detained, formally charged in juvenile court, placed in a locked correctional facility, waived to adult court, and incarcerated in an adult facility.

In order to achieve our goal, NJJN, in all of its work, seeks to promote policies and practices that eliminate racial and ethnic disparities, whether or not that is an explicit goal of those policies. Reform initiatives should have a positive effect on reducing disparities, and should at worst be neutral in their impact on racial and ethnic disparities. 

Principles of Youth Justice Reform



Each National Juvenile Justice Network member embraces these principles of reform, and conducts state-based work on at least two principles. These principles and the associated text are from “Juvenile Justice Reform: A Blueprint,” developed by the Youth Transition Funders Group..