In the last decade, Latinos represented
over half the population growth
in the United States--making our communities stronger, our schools more culturally rich, and our nation's fabric more vibrant and full.
Coinciding with the start of #HispanicHeritage Month on September 15, the National Juvenile Defender Center is celebrating the many contributions of Hispanic and Latino children and families. But we must also address the unequal treatment children of color endure everyday--especially in our justice system.
Language barriers, biases, and ignorance around immigration law uniquely harm Hispanic and Latino children and their families at every step of a child's juvenile court involvement.
Available data overwhelmingly reflects deep--and devastating--disparities in the treatment of Latino children.
According to a report
by the National Council of La Raza and the Campaign for Youth Justice, the starkest disparity in treatment is waiver to adult court: Latino youth are 43% more likely than their white peers to be tried as adults.
Appallingly, one in four incarcerated Latino youth is held in an adult prison or jail.
But the exact breadth of harm is unknown. Historically--and still today--little data was gathered to meaningfully understand ethnic disparities in the juvenile justice system. Court systems failed to distinguish Latino youth from white youth in data collection and, in doing so, diluted alarming evidence of unjust treatment.
Juvenile defenders are positioned to demand fair court proceedings for Hispanic and Latino children. That means securing an interpreter for a young person or family member who speaks minimal or no English; effectively raising the issue of racial and ethnic bias throughout the entirety of representation; and celebrating, rather than stereotyping, cultural differences.
Earlier this year, the National Juvenile Defender Center launched
Gault at 50
, a yearlong campaign to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the US Supreme Court decision,
In re Gault
, that guaranteed children the right to an attorney in juvenile court. As part of our campaign, we're identifying monthly themes to elevate important issues, crises, and communities that are impacted by the juvenile justice system. This September, we're highlighting Hispanic and Latino youth. Juvenile courts, and the people working within them, must be culturally sensitive and attuned to the unique needs and circumstances of youth and families. The system is broken with biases--and, whether implicit or explicit, they're causing irreparable harm to Hispanic and Latino youth and their futures.
Please take a moment to pledge your support by sharing our message on social media and endorsing the #GaultAt50
Statement of Principles
toolkits including social media posts and graphics are available on our website.