Disproportionate incarceration of juvenile drug offenders

The “War on Drugs” in the US has disproportionately impacted people of color in urban settings. This paper presents one example of this disproportionate impact, documenting the reliance on incarceration for juvenile drug offenders within the west side of the city of Chicago. Statistics on youth committed to juvenile prisons across the state of Illinois demonstrate the majority of juveniles incarcerated for drug offenses come from the city of Chicago, and zip code mapping of the Chicago area youth committed to juvenile prisons reveals the majority of juvenile drug commitments come from one area in the city on the west side. The paper further examines the disproportionate impact of incarceration on youth of color in Illinois. The paper concludes that the disproportionate impact on minority youth from Chicago is contrary to evidence that treatment is more effective than incarceration for children in conflict with the law.

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