Disproportionate Minority Confinement:
1997 Update

Heidi M. Hsia, Ph.D., and Donna Hamparian

PhotoThe disparate treatment of minorities in America's juvenile justice systems, as evidenced by the disproportionate confinement of minority juveniles in secure facilities, was brought to national attention by the Coalition for Juvenile Justice (formerly the National Coalition of State Juvenile Justice Advisory Groups) in its 1988 annual report to Congress, A Delicate Balance (Coalition for Juvenile Justice, 1988). In the 1988 amendments to the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (JJDP) Act of 1974 (Pub. L. 93-415, 42 U.S.C. 5601 et seq.), Congress required that States address disproportionate minority confinement (DMC) in their State plans. In the 1992 amendments to the JJDP Act, DMC was elevated to a core requirement, with future funding eligibility tied to State compliance. Prevalence studies to examine the likelihood of juveniles being incarcerated in a juvenile corrections facility before the age of 18 were subsequently conducted in 16 States (DeComo, 1993). These studies showed that African-American youth had the highest prevalence rates of all segments of the population in 15 of the 16 States. In 2 States, it was estimated that 1 in 7 African-American males (compared with approximately 1 in 125 white males) would be incarcerated before the age of 18. Although minority youth constituted about 32 percent of the youth population in the country in 1995, they represented 68 percent of the juvenile population in secure detention and 68 percent of those in secure institutional environments such as training schools (Sickmund, Snyder, and Poe-Yamagata, 1997). These figures reflect significant increases over 1983, when minority youth represented 53 percent of the detention population and 56 percent of the secure juvenile corrections population. Additional research has consistently substantiated that minority overrepresentation has not been limited to confinement in secure facilities; it also is significant at each of the major decision points in the juvenile justice system process (e.g., arrest, detention, prosecution, adjudication, transfer to adult court, and commitment to secure facilities). This holds true in most States and the District of Columbia. Thus, the term "minority overrepresentation" has been used to describe the phenomenon of disproportionately large numbers of minority youth who come into contact with the juvenile justice system at various stages, including, but not limited to, secure confinement.1 During the past decade, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) has assumed a leadership role, calling on the Nation to address the DMC issue in a deliberate and systematic manner that includes the following:

  • DMC as a core requirement of the JJDP Act Formula Grants Program. OJJDP administers the Formula Grants Program under Title II, part B, of the JJDP Act. Under the Formula Grants Program, each State must address efforts to reduce the proportion of youth detained or confined in secure detention facilities, secure correctional facilities, jails, and lockups who are members of minority groups if it exceeds the proportion of such groups in the general population.2 For purposes of this requirement, OJJDP has defined minority populations as African-Americans, American Indians,3 Asians, Pacific Islanders, and Hispanics (OJJDP Formula Grants Regulation, 28 C.F.R. Part 31). Because addressing DMC is one of the core requirements of the JJDP Act, States failing to meet the DMC plan requirement are ineligible to receive 25 percent of their annual formula grant allocation.4

  • DMC training and technical assistance. Publications such as the OJJDP Fact Sheet Disproportionate Minority Confinement (Roscoe and Morton, 1994) and the DMC national reports cited in footnote 4 have been disseminated widely as technical assistance tools. OJJDP also has sponsored a variety of national and regional training sessions for juvenile justice practitioners, researchers, and policymakers. To further assist States, OJJDP contracted with Community Research Associates (CRA), Inc., in Champaign, IL, to provide training and technical assistance upon request on all aspects of this core requirement. In addition, a technical assistance manual was produced in 1990 by OJJDP, in conjunction with CRA, to provide State juvenile justice specialists and State advisory group members with a step-by-step blueprint for systematically addressing DMC. This manual is currently being updated. Portland State University also was contracted to provide training and technical assistance to five competitively selected pilot States (Arizona, Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, and Oregon) in their efforts to address DMC. The DMC Initiative in the five pilot States is described below.

  • The DMC Initiative. To enhance States' ability to comply with the DMC requirement, test various approaches to assessing DMC, and experiment with approaches to reducing DMC, OJJDP established the Disproportionate Minority Confinement Initiative in 1991. Over the next 3 years, five competitively selected pilot States aggressively assessed the extent of DMC in their juvenile justice systems, designed comprehensive strategies, and implemented interventions to address the problems identified. OJJDP's national management evaluation contractor, Caliber Associates, Inc., provided all five States with technical assistance and design support to develop a process and/or impact evaluation, evaluate their efforts, and share relevant information nationwide. Five final reports (one on each of the pilot States), produced under the DMC Initiative, were products of this effort.5 An OJJDP Bulletin focusing on lessons learned from this initiative is in preparation (Devine, Coolbaugh, and Jenkins, in press).

  • National Innovations to Reduce DMC. This discretionary grants program is also known as the Deborah Ann Wysinger Memorial Program in memory of a deceased OJJDP staff person who spearheaded OJJDP's DMC efforts. Grants have been awarded under the program to States, local units of government, private not-for-profit organizations, and American Indian tribes to develop interventions that address DMC. The program's goals are to refine previous assessment findings and improve data systems, develop new interventions to reduce DMC, develop model DMC programs, and encourage multidisciplinary collaborations at the community level to reduce DMC. In fiscal years 1995 and 1996, 11 DMC discretionary grants were awarded (one program was given a 2-year grant).6 The awards included research, training and technical assistance, and demonstrations to test innovative interventions designed by States and local communities. Grants to 10 of the projects have been completed, with the remaining project to be completed in September 1998.

  • National DMC training, technical assistance, and information dissemination initiative. In 1997, recognizing the need to foster development and documentation of effective strategies nationwide using training, technical assistance, information dissemination, practical and targeted resource tools, and public education, OJJDP launched a 3-year national initiative. Through an OJJDP cooperative agreement with Cygnus Corp., interested jurisdictions will be provided with information designed to enable them to successfully address those factors that contribute to DMC. Cygnus will review and synthesize current State and local practices and policies; develop and deliver training to grantees, personnel involved with the juvenile justice system, policymakers, and others regarding effective interventions; and identify effective approaches for improving States' DMC efforts.

  1. In this Bulletin, the term "DMC" refers to the impact of minority overrepresentation across the juvenile justice system because nearly all local, State, and Federal efforts to address DMC include the examination of minority overrepresentation at multiple points of juvenile justice system processing.

  2. See § 223(a)(23) of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974, as amended.

  3. In practice, this category has been interpreted to include American Indians, Eskimos, Aleutians, and others (Hamparian and Leiber, 1997).

  4. For a detailed historical account of DMC as a "core requirement" of the Formula Grants Program; descriptions of the identification, assessment, and intervention phases of DMC that States are required to address in their State plans; and States' DMC activities in these phases, see The Status of the States: A Review of State Materials Regarding Overrepresentation of Minority Youth in the Juvenile Justice System (Feyerherm, 1993) and Disproportionate Confinement of Minority Juveniles in Secure Facilities: 1996 National Report (Hamparian and Leiber, 1997).

  5. In 1996, Caliber Associates, Inc., Fairfax, VA, published the following reports: Evaluation of the Disproportionate Minority Confinement (DMC) Initiative: Arizona Final Report, Evaluation of the Disproportionate Minority Confinement (DMC) Initiative: Florida Final Report, Evaluation of the Disproportionate Minority Confinement (DMC) Initiative: Iowa Final Report, Evaluation of the Disproportionate Minority Confinement (DMC) Initiative: North Carolina Final Report, Evaluation of the Disproportionate Minority Confinement (DMC) Initiative: Oregon Final Report. These reports are available from the Juvenile Justice Clearinghouse by calling 800-638-8736 ($15 each, $39 for all five).

  6. The following programs were awarded discretionary grants: TeenCourt Youth Diversion Program (Lummi Indian Nation, Bellingham, WA); Interventions to Reduce Disproportionate Minority Confinement (Academy, Inc., Columbus, OH); Disproportionate Minority Confinement (New Jersey Superior Court Probation Division, Patterson, NJ); Comprehensive Intensive Aftercare for Incarcerated African American Youth (Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections, Baton Rouge, LA); Interventions to Reduce Disproportionate Minority Confinement (Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California, Gardnerville, NV); Disproportionate Minority Confinement (Pima County Juvenile Court Center, Tucson, AZ); Community Alternatives to Detention (Chatham-Savannah Youth Futures Authority, Savannah, GA); Disproportionate Minority Confinement (Wayne County Neighborhood Legal Services, Detroit, MI); Interventions to Reduce Disproportionate Minority Confinement (Project Heavy West, Los Angeles, CA); and Disproportionate Minority Confinement: A Time for Change (American Correctional Association, Lanham, MD).

Disproportionate Minority Confinement: 1997 Update Juvenile Justice Bulletin   ·  September 1998