Hello. I am Liz Ryan, the Administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, or OJJDP.
Every February, we celebrate Black History Month. This is an annual reminder of the enormous contributions that African Americans have made to every aspect of American culture.
For OJJDP, this is also a time to reaffirm our commitment to pursue racial equity and fairness in the juvenile justice system.
In 2020, black youth were 2.4 times more likely to be arrested than white youth. Youth of color are also more likely than their white peers who commit similar offenses to be prosecuted in adult criminal court—and to be placed in adult jails and prisons. The harsh reality is that there are disparities at every phase of the juvenile justice system. This must change.
OJJDP is working to dismantle the disparities in our juvenile justice system through both funding and action. Through our Office’s Title II program, states receive funding to improve prevention and intervention services for youth and to enhance their juvenile justice systems. In 2022 alone, we awarded more than $44 million under the Title II program.
To better combat racial and ethnic disparities nationwide, OJJDP is strengthening the resources states can draw upon to improve data collection and analysis. The Juvenile Justice and Reform Act of 2018 requires states to develop responsive Reducing Disparities Workplans. We offer technical assistance to help with workplan development and implementation. It is time to stop guessing and start gauging what works and what doesn’t to reduce racial disparities.
OJJDP envisions a nation where any contact with the juvenile justice system is rare, fair, and beneficial to youth. The word fair is significant.
As juvenile justice practitioners, it is our responsibility to work toward a fair system—a system where youth of color are not overrepresented or mistreated. We must reduce disparities. We must fight biases. Our kids deserve no less.
We hope that you—juvenile justice practitioners and stakeholders—will join us as we mark Black History Month and recommit ourselves to meeting the needs of all youth. Together, we can do better, and I believe we will. Thank you.