Youth of Color
Youth in high poverty communities face significant obstacles. Our work explores the depth of the disadvantaged youth problem in some of the nation's most challenged communities, with particular emphasis on youth of color. We highlight data on youth risk and outcomes in poor communities, elevate sound policy changes to benefit this population, and help communities to take advantage of opportunities at the federal and state level to expand and coordinate services.
Keeping youth on track and broadening their future opportunities requires flexible federal and state policies, adequate funding to meet immense need, and a community-wide approach to implementation that is attentive to the varied needs of a heterogeneous population. Young males of color, in particular, need targeted supports that are both robust and culturally relevant. Establishing a common goal for all youth and coordinating resources and systems to support all aspects of their development will put more young people on a path to solid education, meaningful careers, and eventual self-sufficiency. Being intentional about strategies to successfully reach and serve youth of color ensures that the system meets the needs of all youth in the community equitably.
Mar 30, 2016 | PERMALINK »
In 2016, Key Wins for Justice-Involved Youth, but More Work Ahead
In the juvenile justice world, 2016 started off with significant wins for young people. President Obama took landmark executive action forbidding solitary confinement of juveniles in federal prisons. In Montgomery v. Louisiana, the U.S. Supreme Court made a previous ruling retroactive—affirming that mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole for juveniles are cruel and unusual punishment and violate the 8th amendment of the Constitution. These actions recognize the vulnerability of youth in penal institutions and that they have lesser culpability than adults for their crimes because of their brain development.
Following these positive developments from the executive and judicial branches, opportunities remain for Congress to follow suit. Bills related to community-based services for justice-involved youth; education and workforce development for currently and formerly incarcerated individuals; and sentencing reform are waiting in Congress to be moved. Proposed legislation includes:
- The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevent Reauthorization Act of 2015 that would fund such programs as prevention for at-risk youth, law enforcement and judicial training, mental health interventions, keeping youth out of adult jails and lockups and status offenders out of jail.
- The Second Chance Reauthorization Act that would fund programs that help formerly incarcerated individuals reenter the community, providing such services as education, job training, job placement, substance abuse treatment, mentoring, mental health, and physical health.
- The Restoring Education and Learning (REAL) Act that would restore Pell grant eligibility to individuals incarcerated in state and federal prisons.
- The Stopping Unfair Collateral Consequences from Ending Student Success (SUCCESS) Act that would permit people with drug-related offenses to be eligible for federal educational grants, loans, and work study aid.
- The Sentencing Reform Act that would reduce several federal mandatory minimum drug and gun sentences and make those reductions retroactive.
These policies would especially have a tremendous impact on the educational attainment, employment prospects, and well-being of youth of color— particularly African American youth— who experience disparate involvement with the justice system at all levels of contact, and the disparities grow at almost every step. In 2010, African Americans comprised 17 percent of all youth ages 10-17, but accounted for 31 percent of all juvenile arrests. They are more likely to be referred to juvenile court than are white youth, are more likely to be processed rather than diverted, are more likely to be adjudicated delinquent, and are more likely to be sent to secure confinement.
Ultimately, our aim should be to minimize the number of youth who fall into the juvenile justice system in the first place, and a growing entry point to prison is the school. Reforming school and district suspension and expulsion policies, reducing law enforcement and police presence in schools, and investing in support staff—including guidance counselors, social workers, and psychologists—is a great place to start. For youth who already have justice system involvement, these actions could prevent further arrests, especially for youth of color who disproportionately experience out-of-school suspensions and expulsions.
For youth who are on probation or parole, strong partnerships between the courts, juvenile and adult justice agencies, and education and workforce development system are key to successfully placing and retaining youth in education and employment pathways. All of these federal bills could promote these partnerships by offering funding streams that can be leveraged. For example, Second Chance Act funds bring together the justice system and workforce development systems in some communities. And restoration of Pell grant eligibility to incarcerated individuals would incentivize postsecondary institutions to develop collaborative programs with penal institutions. Community-based interventions such as the youth opportunity movement have proved to reduce high school dropout, increase Pell grant receipt, boost employment rates, and reduce crime and juvenile delinquency.
The actions of President Obama and the Supreme Court will make a big difference for youth and young adults who are confined in penal institutions. For the significant numbers of youth who are court-involved and in the community, policies aimed at promoting their education, workforce preparation, and employment will go a long way towards unlocking doors of opportunity, ensuring that they can realize their potential, successfully remain in the community, and avoid future arrests or deeper involvement with the justice system.
- Kisha Bird, Anna Cielinski, Judy Mortrude, and David Socolow | Apr 17, 2015 Promoting Economic and Career Success for Low-Income Youth and Adults: A Preview of the Proposed WIOA Regulations
- CLASP Youth Team | Mar 25, 2014 Improving Education Outcomes for African American Youth: Issues for Consideration and Discussion
- Zane Jennings and Kisha Bird | Jan 17, 2014 The High Cost of Youth Unemployment
- Kisha Bird | Jun 28, 2013 Supreme Court Sends Affirmative Action Case Back to Lower Court
- Rhonda Tsoi-A-Fatt Bryant | Jun 10, 2013 Education, Employment, and Health Outcomes for Black Boys and Young Men: Opportunities for Research and Advocacy Collaboration
- Olivia Golden | May 24, 2016 Moving America’s Families Forward: Setting Priorities for Reducing Poverty and Expanding Opportunity
- Kisha Bird and Nia West-Bey | Apr 21, 2016 Every Student Succeeds Act Primer: High School Dropout Prevention and Reengagement of Out-of-School Youth
- Andrea Amaechi | Mar 31, 2016 Building Systems And Pathways For Disconnected Youth
- Nov 18, 2015 Webinar: Children and Young Adults in Poverty: A Look by Race and Geography
- Kisha Bird, Anna Cielinski, Judy Mortrude, and David Socolow | Apr 17, 2015 Promoting Economic and Career Success for Low-Income Youth and Adults: A Preview of Key Provisions in the Proposed WIOA Regulations