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Despite Major Strides In Sedgwick County Juvenile Justice System, Racial Disparities Still Persist

The results of a state commissioned study on minority youth representation in the juvenile justice system were presented Thursday to community members.

The study, carried out by the Nebraska company Objective Advantage, analyzed data statewide including data from Kansas Judicial District 18, which includes all of Sedgwick County.

Researchers found that Black youth are over-represented in Sedgwick County detention facilities, while White and Hispanic youth are underrepresented. Though, The researchers said the under representation of Hispanic youth could be a data flaw, stemming from limitations with census categories.

Dr. Elizabeth Neely was a lead researcher on study, she says when looking at the numbers people should know the majority of cases are not kids who committed serious crimes.

"That's just not the case nationally, it's not the case here," she says.

"The majority of youth are in detention because they failed to appear for a court hearing, or violated a term of probation. They are very, kind of, minor offenses."

Neely also says Sedgwick County should be applauded for work that has drastically reduced the overall number of youth in detention.

"They have been working very diligently and very strategically for a decade, almost, in looking at over-representation or over-reliance in secure detention," she says, "and have, I believe, reduced the number of youth in detention over 56 percent in the last decade."

After the presentation attendees shared strategies to combat the persistent racial disparities in the juvenile justice system including increased job opportunities and mobilizing the community to volunteer their time to minority youth.