JJS Contact Points
When a jurisdiction initiates an effort to identify where disproportionate minority contact (DMC) may exist within its juvenile justice system, it needs to describe the extent to which minority youth are overrepresented in its juvenile justice system. To do so, it will need to collect and examine data on the volume of occurrence at major decision points in the juvenile justice system. To facilitate this data collection, OJJDP has defined nine major decision points in a typical juvenile justice system (OJJDP, August 2006). These are: arrest, referral, diversion, detention, petitioned/charges filed, delinquent findings, probation, confinement in secure correctional facilities, and transfer to adult court. Cases flow between major stages in the justice system and are depicted in such a way that one can follow the major components and can record the number of cases passing through each stage during the year. One can determine whether overrepresentation exists; where within the jurisdictions it exists; and the degree of overrepresentation at those points within the juvenile justice system.
The definitions of the nine juvenile justice system contact points follow. The definitions below, as well as the contributing mechanisms, are consistent with those in the OJJDP DMC TA Manual .
Youth are considered to be arrested when law enforcement agencies apprehend, stop, or otherwise contacted them and suspect them of having committed a delinquent act. Delinquent acts are those that, if an adult commits them, would be criminal, including crimes against persons, crimes against property, drug offenses, and crimes against the public order.
Referral is when a potentially delinquent youth is sent forward for legal processing and received by a juvenile or family court, or juvenile intake agency, either as a result of law enforcement action or upon a complaint by a citizen or school.
Youth referred to juvenile court for delinquent acts are often screened by an intake department (either within or outside the court). The intake department may decide to dismiss the case for lack of legal sufficiency, to resolve the matter informally (without the filing of charges), or formally (with the filing of charges). The diversion population includes all youth referred for legal processing but handled without the filing of formal charges.
Detention refers to youth held in secure detention facilities at some point during court processing of delinquency cases- i.e., prior to disposition. In some jurisdictions, the detention population may also include youth held in secure detention to await placement following a court disposition. For the purposes of DMC, detention may also include youth held in jails and lockups. Detention should NOT include youth held in shelters, group homes, or other non-secure facilities.
Formally charged (petitioned) delinquency cases are those that appear on a court calendar in response to the filing of a petition, complaint, or other legal instrument requesting the court to adjudicate a youth as a delinquent or status offender, or to waive jurisdiction and transfer a youth to criminal court. Petitioning occurs when a juvenile court intake officer, prosecutor, or other official determines that a case should be handled formally. In contrast, informal handling is voluntary and does not include the filing of charges.
Youth are judged or found to be delinquent during adjudicatory hearings in juvenile court. Being found (or adjudicated) delinquent is roughly equivalent to being convicted in criminal court. It is a formal legal finding of responsibility. If found to be delinquent, youth normally proceed to disposition hearings where they may be placed on probation, committed to residential facilities, be ordered to perform community service, or various other sanctions.
Probation cases are those in which a youth is placed on formal or court-ordered supervision following a juvenile court disposition. Note: youth on "probation" under voluntary agreements without adjudication should not be counted here, but should be part of the diverted population instead.
Confinement in Secure Correctional Facilities
Confined cases are those in which youth are placed in secure residential or correctional facilities for delinquent offenders following a court disposition. The confinement population should NOT include all youth placed in any form of out-of-home placement. Group homes, shelter homes, and mental health treatment facilities, for example, would usually not be considered confinement. Every jurisdiction collecting DMC data must specify which forms of placement do and do not qualify as confinement.
Transferred to Adult Court
Waived cases are those in which a youth is transferred to criminal court as a result of a judicial finding in juvenile court. During a waiver hearing, the juvenile court usually files a petition asking the juvenile judge to waive jurisdiction over the case. The juvenile judge decides whether the case merits criminal prosecution. When a waiver request is denied, the matter is usually scheduled for an adjudicatory hearing in the juvenile court. If a request is granted, the juvenile is judicially waived to criminal court for further action. Juveniles may be transferred to criminal court through a variety of other methods, but most of these methods are difficult or impossible to track from within the juvenile justice system, including prosecutor discretion or concurrent jurisdiction, legislative exclusion, and the variety of blended sentencing laws.
Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (July 2009). Disproportionate Minority Contact Technical Assistance Manual. Fourth Edition. OJJDP: Washington, DC.
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