This is an archive of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s (OJJDP's) electronic newsletter OJJDP News @ a Glance. The information in this archived resource may be outdated and links may no longer function. Visit our website at for current information.
January | February 2016

VIDEO MESSAGE: African American History Month

Hello. I’m Bob Listenbee, Administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

This February marks the 40th observance of African American History Month. The annual commemoration provides an opportunity to reflect on the achievements and contributions of African Americans to our great country.

Despite the many advances we have made as a nation, far too many African American youth are denied the chance to make their contributions to society. The use of zero-tolerance and overly punitive discipline policies in our schools is driving future leaders away from the school-to-career track and into the school-to-prison pipeline. Worse, these policies are not being applied fairly—students of color are suspended or expelled from school far more often for the same or less serious behaviors than their white counterparts.

Outside the school walls, youth of color face similar obstacles. Our data show that African American youth are arrested at more than twice the rate of white non-Hispanic youth. Unfortunately, racial and ethnic disparities extend beyond arrest to juvenile court referral, detention, adjudication, and out-of-home placement.

We cannot ignore the facts and the harsh reality that once a child enters the juvenile justice system, the trajectory of his or her life toward success is greatly diminished. That’s why the Department of Justice—led by U.S. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, the first African American female to serve in this position—continues to champion the development of comprehensive data, qualitative research, and evidence-based programs to ensure that all youth have the chance to succeed.

Through the Supportive School Discipline Initiative, the Justice and Education Departments are backing the development of effective policies and positive practices to keep students engaged in learning and safe in school while holding them accountable for their actions.

One of OJJDP’s flagship programs—the Smart on Juvenile Justice initiative—is working to eliminate racial and ethnic disparities while being responsive to the needs of a racially and ethnically diverse population. It seeks to reduce preadjudicatory detention, out-of-home placements, recidivism, and correctional costs. The initiative also provides training and technical assistance to address racial and ethnic disparities within the juvenile justice system, and targeted training for juvenile prosecutors and defenders.

These are just a few of the federal initiatives in place to ensure that fair and equal treatment is the standard for all systems that serve our nation’s youth.

In his 2016 National African American History Month proclamation, President Barack Obama urged all citizens to “address the inequalities and injustices that linger,” and “recommit to reaching for a day when no person is judged by anything but the content of their character.”

To continue righting the societal wrongs that often derail our youth, we must ensure that all youth have an opportunity to succeed—not just for one month, but all year long.

For more information about OJJDP programs visit our website at and access the current issue of our e-newsletter, OJJDP News @ a Glance.

Thank you.