justice system because these disparities “undermine faith among all races and ethnic groups in the
fairness and efficacy of the [system]”
There is a benefit to everyone when we support a culturally appropriate system. Within
youth justice, disparities are particularly intolerable because incarceration has such grave
implications for offenders’ own lives, and those of their families and communities.
children who commit crimes hold the potential to grow into responsible, productive citizens. In
the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “[ i]njustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.
Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
71 Thus, the next step is to continue to learn,
discuss, and advocate. It is important to move towards a culturally appropriate system72 that meets
the needs of all members of society and is respectful of differences.73
Finally, many opportunities exist to advance both these issues and the discussions surrounding
them. Several examples at the state and national levels highlight potential progress that may signal
a shift in attitudes.74 Law schools such as New York University School of Law and the University
of Washington School of Law now offer racial justice focused legal clinics to train senior law
students on providing quality representation in this area,75 while localized initiatives and reforms—
such as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s New York Police Department reforms76 and
69Targeting Blacks: Drug Law Enforcement and Race in the United States, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH, 1, 59 (2008),
71JAMES MELVIN WASHINGTON, TESTAMENT OF HOPE: THE ESSENTIAL WRITINGS AND SPEECHES OF MARTIN LUTHER
KING, JR 1, 290 (1986). See Reducing Racial Disparity in the Criminal Justice System: A Manual for Practitioners,
THE SENTENCING PROJECT, http://www.sentencingproject.org/doc/publications/rd_reducingracialdisparity.pdf (last
visited Mar. 31, 2015). See, e.g., Todd Belcore, Blueprint for Justice for All: All Hands on Deck, THE WHITE HOUSE
(Oct. 21, 2011, 5: 40 PM), https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2011/10/21/blueprint-justice-all-all-hands-deck
(discussing some of the things that must be done to help close the justice gap in America).
72A culturally appropriate youth justice system, model, process, practice or treatment is defined here as that which is
respectful of and not negatively influenced by the individual circumstances of the young person, including his or her
race, culture, Indigenous status, gender or appearance. This also extends to the young person’s family, as disparate
treatment towards a youth’s wider group invariably affects the youth’s experience. In other words, a culturally
appropriate model is colorblind—it does not treat individuals differently on the basis of their skin—but takes into
account and accommodates for differences based on culture, origin and background.
73Potential for Change: Public Attitudes and Policy Preferences for Juvenile Justice System Reforms, MACARTHUR
FOUNDATION 9, https://www.macfound.org/media/article_pdfs/CCLPPOLLINGFINAL.PDF (last visited Aug. 15,
2015) (introducing data showing that the public believes some youth receive worse treatment than the other in the
juvenile justice system, and that the public opinion is shifting to support change); Todd Belcore, The New Jim Crow:
Honoring the Civil Rights of Those Who Have Paid Their Debt to Society, THE SHRIVER BRIEF (Jul. 2, 2014),
honoring-the-civil-rights-of-those-who-have-paid-their-debt-to-society/ (introducing a history of discrimination and
highlighting that people “of all ages and backgrounds risked everything to eradicate those immoral laws and practices
so that liberty and justice could truly be available to all,” before providing examples of improvement).
74Potential for Change supra note 73, at 3, 11(explaining poll data showing a shift in attitudes, and that the public is
now more optimistic and potentially ready to support juvenile justice reform).
75See Racial Justice Clinic, N.Y.U., http://www.law.nyu.edu/academics/clinics/semester/rjc (last visited Sept. 7,
2015); University of Washington, Race and Justice), http://www.law.washington.edu/Clinics/RaceJustice/ (last
visited Sept. 7, 2015) .
76Marc Santoro, Mayor de Blasio Announces Re-training of New York Police, NEW YORK TIMES (Dec. 4, 2014),