Although African American youth represent 7% of the juvenile population, they comprise 35% of the total arrests for serious and violent crimes and 65% of the arrests involving curfew, loitering and runaway infractions.
As a country that locks up our young people at rates that are nearly 5 times the rate of the next highest nation, it seems that we are not turning to the most innovative solutions to ensure that all youth have the opportunity to thrive. In 2007 nationwide the overall lock up rate for violent offenses was 12%, meaning that 88% of young people were incarcerated for nonviolent offenses. When you consider this, we have to ask ourselves: is locking up our young people who don’t pose a threat to public safety the best thing for our youth and our communities?
As an intermediary whose mission is to ensure that all Minnesota youth thrive, we know that factors outside of the traditional out-of-school time program contribute to youth success. Our initiatives under Health & Safety address some of these factors including the negative impact of over policing our youth and the risk that hunger poses to communities across the state.
One initiative that Youthprise supports under Health & Safety is Minnesota’s Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative. JDAI is a nationally recognized juvenile justice reform project launched by the Annie E. Casey Foundation in 1992. JDAI aims to reduce the over reliance on detention for young people , eliminate racial and ethnic disparities, and ignite broader juvenile justice system reform while maintaining or improving public safety. Collaborations with agencies, governmental entities and community organizations is integral to this work, including the engagement of communities that are impacted.
We believe that locking up young people is not the best response to nonviolent behaviors, and that the overrepresentation of youth of color, particularly African American youth, in these systems contributes to the disparities that young people face in Minnesota. Youthprise worked with the Association of Minnesota Counties to secure legislative funding to sustain and expand the work of JDAI to additional counties in Minnesota. Youthprise provided a $100,000 challenge grant in 2013 and an additional $100,000 in 2015, which was critical to vital state support.
In order to ensure that all young people have the opportunity to thrive, Youthprise works within the many systems that touch the lives of young people, so beyond traditional out-of-school time programming we are working with partners like JDAI to reduce the confinement of young people, to address disparities in the ways that young people are policed and to work with those who are the most directly impacted to develop the best solutions.
Now, more than ever, it is important to turn to the communities who are the most directly impacted to get to best solutions to addressing disparities that Minnesotans face. Our work with JDAI is one example of our work within Health & Safety, and how cross-sector partnerships and community-based solutions can lead to a better Minnesota for everyone.