On Thursday February 5,  faith leaders from African American communities and ISAIAH joined community and state leaders to announce their commitment to end racial disparities in Minnesota’s juvenile justice system.

“Our juvenile justice system is broken and racialized; and the time is now to repair it,” declared Rev. Ovester Armstrong, Jr., pastor at Macedonia Baptist Church in Minneapolis.

“The lives of our young black boys are being destroyed by a system designed to punish for life rather than offer rehabilitation, forgiveness, and a hopeful vision and pathway for their future. We are committed to stand up for the humanity of our black youth and to call out the inhumanity of a system that fails to see the God in them,” continued Rev. Armstrong.

ClergyPressConfJuvenileJusticeSystem2 5 15Children of color are more likely to be disciplined, suspended, expelled, and referred into a juvenile justice system that often traps them for offences that are usually seen as simple youthful behavior when committed by white youth.

While the overall number of juvenile offenders being imprisoned in Minnesota has hit record lows, a disproportionate number of young African American, Native American, and Latino American people are put behind bars. In fact, youth of color are three times more likely to be arrested for a delinquency offense.

Sarah Davis, Program Director and Youth Advocate Attorney, Legal Rights Center in Minneapolis said that she overwhelmingly represents kids of color in the justice system. “Racial disparities in our incarnation system is very real and needs to be addressed. This is not a liberal or conservative issue; this is a community issue.”

Faith leaders from African American communities and ISAIAH are partnering with community and state leaders to:

  • Create a fair, objective, data driven juvenile justice system that eliminates disparate treatment and prevents the over-incarceration of youth.
  • Urge our elected leaders to invest $5 million over the next biennium in the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI).
  • End mandatory minimum sentences for youth.
  • End sentencing youth to life without parole.
  • End the shackling of youth in the courtroom.
  • End the mass suspensions and expulsions in our public schools.
  • Allow formerly incarcerated youth to become licensed professionals.
  • Return voting rights to those who have served their sentences.

“The steps we’ve outlined are simple steps we can take to make the juvenile justice system more just,” said Rev. Armstrong. “Members of our congregations will hold community forums and visit with their legislators and work to pass these restorative policies.”