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Improved data on Latinos in the juvenile justice system could soon be available under bill sent to governor

 (Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times)
(Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times)

The state Assembly on Tuesday sent a bill to Gov. Jerry Brown that seeks to capture a broader picture of young Latinos in the juvenile justice system.

AB 1998, authored by Assemblywoman Nora Campos (D-San Jose), would require the Board of State and Community Corrections to prepare guidelines for counties on how to separate data by race and ethnicity on juvenile cases, performance and outcomes.

The bill sailed out of the Assembly with a 73-0 vote.

California lawmakers have long grappled with the collection of juvenile justice data. Reports in 1994 and 1999 found gaps in statistics made it difficult to make informed policy decisions.

Those concerns were again echoed in January 2016, when a working group under the state Board of Corrections — ordered by 2014 legislation — produced a plan for improving juvenile justice reporting requirements.

AB 1998 would implement that plan and require counties and the Board of Corrections to produce data in a single and consolidated annual format. It would impact two major state-local juvenile justice grant programs: the Juvenile Justice Crime Prevention Act and the Youthful Offender Block Grant. 

Campos said Latinos are "increasingly singled out by the criminal justice system." But young Latino offenders are classified as white or African American, she said, making it impossible to determine the full scope of their unequal treatment at key points in the juvenile justice system.

"Racial disparity is perhaps the most important issue facing our juvenile justice system, and we need good data to guide our restorative efforts,” Campos said in a statement.

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