In the last decade, arrests of minority youth have increased, with black and Latino youth being twice as likely to be arrested as white youth. When it comes to the juvenile justice court system, those numbers don’t decrease. Black youth make up only 17% of the general population, but 30% of juvenile referrals, with 58% of those youth being admitted to adult prisons or jails. With such a difference between white and minority youth, there is no arguing that something needs to be done to change this. A group based in Charlotte, NC known as Race Matters for Juvenile Justice, or RMJJ, has made it their mission to do just that.
“Our organization’s goal is to have a juvenile justice system in Mecklenburg County not predicted by race or ethnicity,” said co-chair and juvenile court judge Louis Trosch. RMJJ was formed in 2010 and is focused on building a collaborative team of leaders whose agenda is to reduce the disproportionate representation and disparate outcomes for children and families of color in the juvenile justice system.
Their organization is made up of judges from North Carolina’s 26th district, judicial officers, service providers and community partners.
One of the biggest ways the organization informs and motivates people to change is by placing them in Dismantling Racism workshops. “These workshops are designed to inform us how we became [discriminatory and disproportionate], how to change, what implicit bias is and the effect of unfair treatment,” said Trosch. The two-day workshops meet once, sometimes twice a month, and are divided up between youth and workforce. They teach people where their racism comes from, how it affects their work in their organization and how to change to eliminate any racial inequities in their organization. After completing the workshop, members are offered the chance to join a number of different caucuses where they will continue the discussions started in the workshop.
Judge Trosch encourages anyone who is interested in developing a multiethnic, non-racial society to get informed and get involved. “The first step anyone needs to take is to educate themselves,” says Trosch. “It’s only when you understand something can you make a change.” Anyone interested in partnering their organization or business with RMJJ can find their information on their website, www.rmjj.org. •