Our Interactive Data Map is now Updated to Reflect the Latest OJJDP Youth Incarceration Data

On any given day in the US, Black youth are five times as likely as White youth to be incarcerated; Latino youth are almost twice as likely; and Native American youth are three times as likely.

Most of these youth (73 percent) were incarcerated for non-violent offenses. Although the number of youth incarcerated has decreased by 56 percent since its peak in 1999, racial and ethnic disparities persist and in some states, have become more acute.


In 2013, the Burns Institute launched an interactive data map with the firm belief that in order to address our nation’s addiction to incarcerating youth of color, we need to have a clear understanding of the problem.  We continue to update the site as new data become available.

Curious how your state fares? On the interactive website, you can customize a search based on a number of criteria including youths’ race or ethnicity; offense type; placement type; and year. You can analyze the data using three different metrics: raw numbers, rates, or disparity gaps.

For instance, you can learn:

  • How the numbers, rates and disparity gaps of incarcerated youth of color have changed between 1997 and 2015.
  • Which states have the highest rates of incarceration for Black, Latino, Native American and Asian youth
  • Which states have the greatest disparities when comparing incarceration rates for White youth to Black, Latino, or Native American youth
  • Which states have the highest rates of court ordered commitments to institutional placement for Black, Latino, and Native American youth adjudicated for non-violent offenses
  • Which states have the highest number of youth of color detained pre-adjudication for technical violations

Visit our state data map to answer these questions and more. We encourage you to incorporate these data into your own work in the fight for an equitable justice system.

If you are unfamiliar with our map or need a refresher, take a self-guided tour by clicking on the top-right link on the menu bar.

For further questions, please contact info@burnsinstitute.org

Direct File Rates Arbitrarily Rising for Youth of Color

BI logo          CJCJ logo         NCYL logo


A new report examining the prosecution of youth as adults in California documents variations by county in the use of “direct file” and its disproportionate impact on youth of color.

Direct file refers to a decision, made solely at a prosecutor’s discretion, to charge a youth in adult, criminal court. The report, is released today by the Center on Juvenile & Criminal Justice (CJCJ), National Center for Youth Law (NCYL) and W. Haywood Burns Institute (BI) in coordination with yesterday’s California Supreme Court ruling in a favor of a proposed ballot initiative (the Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016) that would end the practice of direct file, and with tomorrow’s joint legislative hearing on the new measure.

Download Full Report

The report finds:

Prosecutors are increasingly using direct file despite plummeting youth crime: 80 percent of youth prosecuted in the adult system are placed there by a prosecutor. Despite a 55 percent drop in youth felony arrests, district attorneys report 23 percent more direct filings per capita in 2014 than in 2003. These opposing trends suggest that there is no clear relationship between serious crime and the use of direct file.

Racial and ethnic disparities have grown:  While the rate of direct file is decreasing for white youth, it has increased for Black and Latino youth. In 2003, Black youth were 4.5 times as likely as white youth to be directly filed, but by 2014 this figure rose to 11.3 times more likely.

Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Direct File Rates (2003-2014)
Racial & Ethnic Disparities in Direct File Rates 2003-2014

County level disparities lead to an inequitable system of “justice-by-geography”: For example, Yuba and San Diego counties report identical rates of youth arrest for serious offenses, but youth living in Yuba County are 34 times more likely to be directly filed than youth in San Diego County.

Youth who are subjected to the adult system experience psycho-emotional trauma stemming from the high-stakes criminal prosecution, and are more likely to recidivate. By eradicating direct file, Californians would reduce the high cost of unnecessary and harmful long-term incarceration of youth, particularly youth of color, while improving public safety and expanding opportunities for youth to engage in school, work, family and community.

Download Full Report

For more information about this topic or to schedule an interview with the authors, please contact:

Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice at (415) 621- 5661 x 121 or cjcjmedia@cjcj.org

National Center for Youth Law at (510) 835-8098 x 3055 or fguzman@youthlaw.org

W. Haywood Burns Institute at (415) 321-4100 x 108 or lridolfi@burnsinstitute.org