URBANA, Ill. (WAND) – Facts are the core of Ameena Payne’s livelihood.
"Getting facts out there is so important,” the 2007 Urbana High School graduate, who now lives in Australia, where she works as a higher education educator, said.
While reflecting on her career and the social justice movement taking place in America, she said she recognized an issue in the country: Black youth are falling in the criminal justice system and at much higher rates that their white counterparts.
Using her knowledge as a teacher, Payne requested information from the Urbana Police Department regarding the number of Black youth arrests. According to the data, which was provided to WAND News, in 2019, 252 minors were arrested. The data showed 84% were black. So far in 2020, 114 arrests have occurred and 94% are of Black youth.
"To some degree, it is what I am expecting," she said. "Seeing rates of 84% Black youth arrests last year and 94% this year is very disturbing.”
During her research, Payne found several of the arrests of Black youth happened during what is typically school hours. She can’t say for sure the arrests were made at school, but the data concerns her.
"The fact that they are happening when kids should be at school shows that there is disengagement from academia," she said.
Census data shows Black youth make up under 12% of Urbana’s population. Payne said community leaders, including police, city government and schools, needs to come together to fight the issue.
"All of these entities (should be) working together to allocate resources to support what the youth really need, because it is having a direct impact on the community," she said.