With the work of the Governor’s Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice under way, it is timely to consider the issue of racial equity in the juvenile justice system. Issues of racial and ethnic disproportionality and disparity in juvenile justice have been discussed and studied in juvenile justice systems across the country for decades, as federal juvenile justice funding for states has long been tied to their study. See the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s Racial and Ethnic Disparities page for more information on the federal requirement.
North Carolina’s most recent study, Disproportionate Minority Contact in North Carolina: An Assessment Study (hereinafter “Assessment Study”), funded by the Governor’s Crime Commission and authored by Stan Orchowsky, Ph.D. of Cambiare Consulting and Michael Leiber, Ph.D., and Chae Jaynes, Ph.D., of the University of South Florida, was released in June of 2019. The findings reveal that, while there is significant local variation across counties in North Carolina, youth of color are represented throughout the juvenile justice system in far greater numbers than they are represented in the general population. These disparities are most profound at the very front door of the juvenile justice system and at the deepest end of the system in secure confinement. They are also most profound for Black youth.