ANDERSON — Though some progress has been made in terms of arrest referrals and detention of African American youths over the past several years, there’s much more that needs to be done, members of the Race, Equity and Inclusion Workgroup said Thursday.
Judge George Pancol, who established the group more than a year ago, before the nation was thrown into crisis by the police action death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, in an effort to reform Madison County’s juvenile justice system, said now is the time to move beyond rhetoric and leap into action.
“Don’t just let us talk it,” he told about 60 attendees representing the courts, legislature and education in a virtual meeting on Zoom. “You need to work together to make demands of us who have made commitments.”
According to figures supplied to the group by the Madison County Juvenile Probation Department, youth of color make up about 20% of the population in Madison County.
According to the department, 655 youths were referred by law enforcement, parents and school administrators for arrest. Of those, 272, or 41.5%, were Black.
Though the overall numbers are an improvement from the 854 youths who were referred in 2013, the representation of Black youths actually has increased from about 40%.
“This is not new to us. This is not a new era. It’s just getting to the people where, us, people of color, are getting fed up,” said Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative coordinator Nichelle Serf. “We know that systemic racism is alive, and we know that it has affected our juvenile justice system.”
JDAI is a bipartisan effort committed to steering courts and probation departments toward reform by having them screen whether they are retaining the right youths for the right reasons and the right amount of time.
Work group co-chair Kim Townsend said action will take place as the work group leads implicit bias training for a variety of stakeholder groups, including many represented by attendees. She said all businesses and organizations can benefit from diversity, which allows them to operate by looking through more than one lens.
“We want to see systemic changes and not just things tied to specific programs,” she said. “I think we can all agree there needs to be some mandatory training within our institutions, especially when it comes to implicit bias.”
Tammie Dixon-Tatum, who is part of the group of women expected to start the training, agreed.
“Every system in Anderson, in Madison County, Indiana, needs to have some kind of implicit bias training,” she said.