Why So Many Hawaiian, Samoan And Filipino Youth In Justice System?

Courtesy of Hawaii State Judiciary

Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander and mixed-race youth are disproportionately represented in Hawaii's juvenile justice system, a recent study concludes.

The statewide analysis found that Hawaiian, Samoan and Filipino youth "fare worse than Caucasians at the stages of arrest," a pattern that continues as the young people move through detention, probation and protective services. The problem seems to be related to racism and discrimination and how mixed-race people are treated in society.

The report makes a series of recommendations for improving equality in the juvenile justice system, including calling for greater collaboration among agencies, anti-bias and youth-development training, and better data collection, monitoring and analysis.

Hawaiian and Pacific Islander youth, for example, could benefit from cultural-based programs and services rather than detention, while adult mentors could serve as role models.

The report was released this summer by the state's Office of Youth Services. OYS operates facilities like the Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility in Kailua, which has seen positive improvements in recent years following a period of court monitoring that was ordered after reports of abuse of wards surfaced.

"The juvenile justice system has major holes and gaps that the youth fall through, and we really need to fill them or we will see the same results years from now," said Karen Umemoto, the lead author of the report and a professor at the UH Manoa Department of Urban and Regional Planning.

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