LMU professor explains built-in bias behind reports that represent youth of color as more dangerous

Studies and statistics show youth of color disproportionately outnumber those who are white in the nation's juvenile justice system. A local professor explains why the reports misrepresent the nation's youth of color.
We've been talking a lot about the racial and ethnic disparities across the country. Studies show that youth of color disproportionately outnumber those who are white at every stage in the nation's juvenile justice system. They are disproportionately arrested, prosecuted, detained, and sentenced to secure confinement.

Dr. Cheryl Grills, a psychologist and professor from Loyola Marymount University, joined ABC7 via Skype to discuss this issue.

A report you co-authored last year is about how youth of color are represented in the juvenile justice process. It said, "We are failing them in both prevention and treatment." Can you talk about that?

"We are offering treatment that is not necessarily grounded in the culture and context of the people that are being served. So when it comes to youth of color in the juvenile justice system, we start off the process with a flaw in the assessment process itself. We use these diagnostic or assessment tools that actually have bias built in them that make it look like youth of color are in fact more dangerous, more risky, more problematic than they actually are," said Grills.

Dr. Grills says we need to stop and pause to analyze the sample of people used in studies. She believes the big question is, why isn't prevention emphasized more instead of focusing primarily on treatment?

How can these issues be better addressed, fixed?

"One of the important fixes is to start with providing services to youth in the community and at the schools that address the positive youth development needs that all children have," said Grills.

Dr. Grills says social-emotional needs could be better addressed in community-based organizations, which offer a host of services, such as developing and cultivating identity, understanding cultural heritage and understanding how to manage emotions and stress responses.

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