Wichita Three Kansas communities have been chosen as pilot sites for a federal project designed to find out why so many minority youths end up in juvenile detention -- and find ways to reduce those numbers.
Sedgwick, Riley and Finney counties were selected by the Kansas Juvenile Justice Authority to receive federal funding as pilot sites. States that fail to respond to the program face the threat of funding restrictions, which Kansas experienced in 2003.
"We don't want to play Pin the Tail on the Donkey," said Mary Beth Kidd, spokeswoman for the Kansas Juvenile Justice Authority. "We don't want to have the blindfold on. We want to know exactly where the problem exists and pin the tail right there."
The Kansas Advisory Group on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency found that black youths are "grossly over-represented" and Hispanics were nearly double their representation in detention facilities, according to 2001 figures.
While blacks make up only 6 percent of the state's population, 32 percent of the state's incarcerated youths were black.
Mark Masterson, project director for Sedgwick County, said that in the first year the project would focus on collecting and analyzing data. Findings will be shared with the community in the second year, and the third year will focus on new intervention programs, he said.
A Wichita State University report in 1999 found that several factors, including race, affect incarceration rates of juveniles.
While severity of offense was the best predictor in determining who is jailed in Kansas communities, race also plays a role, said Delores Craig-Moreland, the report's author.