Native Youth in the Juvenile Justice System: What Do We Know? 

Native youth are often overrepresented in state and federal juvenile justice systems. Further, state and federal juvenile justice systems are ill-equipped to facilitate true healing and address the unique needs of the Native youth who get caught up in the system. In California, we are still exploring the scope of Native youth and their families involved in the juvenile justice system (also referred to as the detention, delinquency or incarceration systems). Beginning in February 2023, the California Tribal Families Coalition began work in partnership with California’s new Office of Community and Youth Restoration (OYCR) to explore the data and story behind Native youth involvement in juvenile justice. 

OYCR was established in 2021 and operates within the California Health & Human Services (CalHHS) Agency. OYCR aims to “promote a youth continuum of services that are trauma responsive and culturally informed, using public health approaches that support positive youth development, build the capacity of community-based approaches, and reduce the justice involvement of youth.” OYCR will promote evidence-based and promising practices to: 

  • Reduce the transfer of youth into the adult criminal justice system; 
  • Reduce racial and ethnic disparities; and 
  • Increase community-based responses and interventions. 

The Coalition and OYCR will host tribal listening sessions and interviews over the next year to develop promising practices for California probation departments and juvenile justice agencies better understand how to effectively serve Native youth and tribal communities. If you are interested in engaging in this work, or having CTFC visit your tribal community with a listening session and training, please contact us at 

CTFC and OYCR are not the first to embark on the journey of understanding and improving juvenile justice systems for Native youth in the U.S. Read the resources below that have laid the groundwork for understanding the issues and tribally driven solutions.