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. The Campaign and #HispanicHeritage toolkits including social media posts and graphics are available on our website. 

Sample Tweets: 
  • Lift up the dreams of Hispanic youth, don't lock them away #HispanicHeritage #GaultAt50
  • #JuvenileDefenders ensure the voices of Latino youth are heard in court. Every child deserves a lawyer: 
  • Latino youth caught in juvenile court are 41% more likely to receive out-of-home placement than their white peers #GaultAt50 
Sample Facebook Posts:
  • Hispanic and Latino youth are uniquely harmed in the juvenile court system. Language barriers, implicit biases, and ignorance around immigration law can hurt their case outcomes--and even lead to unnecessary placement in custody. Endorse our #GaultAt50 Campaign today and help the @National Juvenile Defender Center protect the rights of all children in court. 
  • Juvenile defenders must be empowered with the resources and support to track racial and ethnic disparities in court. Only by accurately measuring the enormous scope of injustice can we meaningfully overcome it. Join the #GaultAt50 Campaign today: #HispanicHeritage
  • The juvenile court system is broken with bias--and, whether implicit or explicit, it is causing irreparable harm to Hispanic and Latino youth and their futures. Support children's rights in court and endorse the @National Juvenile Defender Center's #GaultAt50 Statement of Principles today! #HispanicHeritage 
For more information on Hispanic and Latino youth and their experiences in the juvenile justice system, see the resources below. 

Children are our most vulnerable defendants, and they need great lawyers. Unfortunately, far too many children continue to stand alone in America's courtrooms. Please help us fulfill the promise of Gault by joining the campaign today.

We look forward to working with you!


Kim Dvorchak
Executive Director
National Juvenile Defender Center

PS - With your generous support, let's bring the Gault at 50 Campaign to the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico to ensure all children have access to skilled, specialized counsel. Please consider making a donation today!

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