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Youth of color are underserved and overrepresented at all stages of the juvenile justice process — due in part to a lack of access to culturally appropriate assessments and mental health services. They are disproportionately arrested, referred to juvenile court, prosecuted, detained, and sentenced to secure confinement. We are failing them in both prevention and treatment. We need a better way of thinking about what is needed, what is missing, and what is problematic in mental health services for youth of color (YOC) who are in conflict with the law. A better way would recognize the following and more.
The Alliance of National Psychological Associations for Racial and Ethnic Equity (The Association of Black Psychologists, The Asian American Psychological Association, The National Latina/o Psychological Association, The American Psychological Association, and in collaboration with The Society of Indian Psychologists) have co-authored The Color of Justice: The Landscape of Traumatic Justice—Youth of Color in Conflict with the Law. This report explores how the field of psychology and the mental health system, including inadequacies and failures in prevention, early intervention, and treatment contribute to the problem of over-representation. The report provides: (1) personal stories from youth entangled in the juvenile justice system and their attempts to interact with, navigate, cope, and even heal from traumatic experiences with the system, (2) evidence that something is terribly wrong in this system that plods on, uninterrupted, (3) an analysis of issues related to context, race, and culture; (4) a critique of the psychology and the mental health system’s complicity with the JJ system’s approach with YOC, and (5) ideas about the way forward.