Thursday, May 16, 2002

Study: Minority youths charged, detained more

The Associated Press

        FRANKFORT — Kentucky's minority youths are charged, detained and committed to juvenile centers in disproportionately high rates, according to a study by University of Louisville researchers.

        Although representing about 10 percent of the state's juvenile population, minority youths accounted for nearly 39 percent of youths held in detention centers on charges and 27 percent of those convicted and committed to juvenile centers, the report found.

        The study also found that minority youths — most of whom are black — enter the juvenile justice system at an earlier age than white youths.

        Juvenile Justice Commissioner Ralph Kelly said his department would use the 80-page report issued Wednesday to try to reduce those high rates.

        “We want to see what areas of the system we need to attack first,” Mr. Kelly said. “The idea is for the document to give us some guidance.”

        Mr. Kelly said he thinks a key way to reduce the number of minority youths held in detention and juvenile centers is to find creative ways to handle their cases as soon as they are charged. His department has expanded a program to provide alternatives to detention throughout the state.

        The goal is to keep the youth out of a detention center or juvenile jail when possible, Mr. Kelly said.

        “All these kids don't need to be locked up,” he said. “The deeper a kid goes into the juvenile justice system, the less likely he is to succeed.”

        The study was led by Clarence R. Talley, a UofL sociology professor. It is part of an ongoing look at the issue required by the U.S. Justice Department as part of a national effort to reduce the number of minority youths in custody.


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- Study: Minority youths charged, detained more