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Reducing Disproportionate Minority Contact: Preparation at the Local Level

NCJ Number
Mark Soler; Lisa M. Garry
Date Published
September 2009
12 pages
Intended as a companion document to the latest edition of the U.S. Justice Department's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention's "Disproportionate Minority Contact Technical Assistance Manual," this bulletin describes strategies that States and communities can use in preparing to reduce disproportionate minority contact (DMC), which refers to the disproportionate representation of minority youth in the juvenile justice system.
This bulletin focuses on the community preparation that must occur before launching a DMC-reduction effort. The major benefits of preparation are the development of relationships with and among key stakeholders, determination of the key goals of DMC-reduction efforts, and the identification of available data and research on DMC in the jurisdiction. Critical to any DMC-reduction efforts is an understanding of the context in which this effort occurs. Negative public attitudes about the association between race (particularly minority races) and crime are an important part of the context. Local preparation should include research on media coverage of crime, race, youth, and related sensitive issues, so as to determine whether the community may be dominated by attitudes that DMC-reduction efforts must overcome. In addressing such attitudes, the argument likely to be received most favorably is that minority youth should not be treated differently in the justice system because of their race or ethnic background. DMC-reduction efforts should avoid any suggestion of excusing delinquent behavior or calling for a "slap on the wrist" for youth who commit crimes. This bulletin also discusses funding sources for local DMC-reduction efforts and steps in local preparation. The latter include establishing a steering committee, identifying leadership, reaching consensus, conveying a sense of urgency, setting priorities, and organizing the work by defining success. Other issues discussed are keeping DMC at the forefront of juvenile justice activities, a model for building community momentum, and the promotion of alternatives to juvenile detention.