Study examines ethnic disparities in Hawai'i's juvenile justice system

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Tai-An Miao, (808) 226-4751
University of Hawaii at Manoa
Posted: Nov 14, 2012

A recent study commissioned by the Juvenile Justice State Advisory Council and conducted in partnership with the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa Department of Urban and Regional Planning, found that Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, and mixed‐race youth are disproportionately represented at many of the major decision points in the juvenile justice system, beginning at the point of arrest. The research findings also concluded that Hawaiian youth are over‐represented at more decision points than any other group and account for the largest share of arrests.
The Disproportionate Minority Contact in the Hawaiʻi Juvenile Justice System: 2000‐2010 report analyzed the arrest and court records of 56,978 individual juvenile offenders ages 10-17 years old during the 2000-2010 time period. Completed this past summer, according to the researchers, thisis the first major study conducted since 1995 that examines ethnic disparities in Hawai‘i's overall juvenile justice system and demonstrates that little progress has been made in addressing persistent disparities over the past 17 years.
The Juvenile Justice State Advisory Council and UH Mānoa’s Department of Urban and Regional Planning presented the main findings and recommendations of the study at a Joint Information Briefing on Wednesday, October 24, at the State Capitol.
“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, lead author of the report and UH Mānoa Department of Urban and Regional Planning professor. “These gaps are in what we call the continuum of care, and in the early stages of juvenile youth involvement in the system, there isn't a close enough collaboration between the courts, the schools and community-based organizations. So many youth are not connected at the early stages of getting into trouble with services that could help them. Then what happens is many of them get into more serious problems, committing more serious offenses or repeating them.”
The State of Hawai‘i Office of Youth Services is initiating a Civil Citations Task Force in each county to begin to address the disparities by diverting youth arrested for low‐level offenses away from the courts and directing them to appropriate culture‐based programs and services that focus on healing and family strengthening.
The Task Force will include community-based organizations, Native Hawaiian trust organizations, and representatives from the Judiciary, Family Court, Honolulu Police Department, and other partner agencies.
A series of community presentations open to the public are being held on O’ahu; the next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, November 29, 2012 from 6-8 p.m. at the Queen Liliʻuokalani Children’s Center Honolulu Unit at 1300-A Halona Street, Honolulu, HI 96817. 
To view a copy of the report, visit the Department of Human Services website at:
For more information, contact: Tai-An Miao at (808) 226-4751 or