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Disproportionate Minority Contact in the Juvenile Justice System

NCJ Number
Date Published
10 pages
This is an overview of issues and policies in addressing the causes of disproportionate minority contact (DMC) in the juvenile justice system.
The report first addresses measurement of the extent of the problem. This includes a discussion of the Relative Rate Index (RRI), which is a measure of the rate of racial disparity between White youth and youth of color at a particular stage in the system. The current limitations of the RRI as a tool for measuring DMC in the juvenile justice system are discussed. The report then examines disproportionate arrest rates for White youth and youth of color compared to youths' self-reported crimes. Data on the DMC in the arrests of juveniles are discussed for the following types of offenses: status offenses, property crime, and drug offenses. Another major section of the report addresses how policy choices worsen DMC. This discussion focuses on school discipline being a law enforcement issue, using typical juvenile misbehavior as a gateway into the juvenile justice system through valid court orders, and how geography and population density impact the likelihood of DMC. Another section of the report discusses disproportionate minority confinement and how this is addressed under the Federal Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA). A concluding discussion of ways to eliminate DMC outlines five requirements for States in countering DMC under the JJDPA. They include establishing coordinating bodies to oversee efforts to reduce disparities; identifying key decision points in the system to determine which points create disparities; creating systems to collect local data at every point of contact youth have with the juvenile justice system; and developing and implementing plans to address disparities that include measurable objectives for policy or practice change that are based on data. 1 table, 4 figures, and 37 notes