Report: Juvenile Arrest Rate Has Plummeted, but Racial Disparities Remain

In 2016, law enforcement agencies made an estimated 856,130 arrests of youth younger than 18 — the fewest arrests of juveniles in nearly four decades. Data: OJJDP

The number of youth arrested in America has been cut in half in the past 10 years, though an alarming racial disproportionality still exists when it comes to arrests for violent crimes, according to a report released by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).

Juvenile arrests peaked north of 2.5 million per year in the mid-1990s, and declined to 2 million by the mid-2000s. In 2016, juvenile arrests totaled 856,130.

The recent phenomenon coincides with an effort by some states to divert at-risk youth rather than to make formal arrests. In California, for example, former Gov. Jerry Brown’s $37.5 million effort to keep adolescents from the juvenile justice system created a new well of funding called the Youth Reinvestment Fund to support statewide diversion efforts.

The report shows a continuing racial disparity in arrests for violent crimes – more than half of those involved black youths, even though only 17 percent of youths age 10-17 are black.

The DOJ report also noted that the rate at which young men are being arrested for violent crimes is dropping faster than it is for females.

“Between 2007 and 2016, the male aggravated assault rate fell 51 percent, compared with a 44 percent decrease for females. The male simple assault arrest rate fell 48 percent, compared with 40 percent for females,” the report reads. This dynamic matches the arrest rates for both types of assault amongst adults.

As the Prison Policy Initiative reported in 2018, “there’s a disturbing gender disparity in recent prison population trends … [t]oo often, states undermine their commitment to criminal justice reform by ignoring women’s incarceration.”

The full report can be found here.


Learn more about the federal rule change on funding legal representation for families in our exclusive webinarA New Era of Funding Family Justice, with Leslie Heimov and Vivek Sankaran on Feb. 21st. Hosted by John Kelly, Editor-in-Chief for The Chronicle of Social Change.

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