Pennsylvania's Strengths

The strengths of the Pennsylvania process in addressing DMC follow.

PhotoThe active support of the Governor, PCCD, and JAC. Governor Tom Ridge has provided strong support for juvenile justice and children's issues. In 1997, the Governor met with representatives of JAC, including Daniel Elby, chair of the Minority Confinement Subcommittee, to discuss recommendations to strengthen the juvenile justice system and prevent delinquency. The Governor has acted on six of these recommendations, including the creation of a delinquency prevention policy specialist position in PCCD. This individual will assist with the coordination of State and local prevention initiatives and oversee the DMC and Title V/CTC programs. From 1991 to 1997, PCCD and JAC have awarded nearly $4 million to support the DMC Initiative. For 1998, $500,000 has been reserved to continue support for the initiative.

The effectiveness of the subcommittee. JAC's Minority Confinement Subcommittee was established to ensure that the issue of minority overrepresentation would receive adequate attention and would not become lost among JAC's many responsibilities. The subcommittee has been meeting three to four times a year since 1990 and has set up quarterly meetings for 1998. Nine of the ten subcommittee members are minorities (eight African-Americans and one Hispanic) with rich experience in working with minority juveniles. Their strong dedication and expertise are important to the subcommittee's overall effectiveness. The subcommittee has further benefited from the strong and continuous leadership of its chair, Daniel Elby, the executive director of Alternative Rehabilitation Communities, Inc. Moreover, this subcommittee provides regular DMC reports (both verbal and written) to both JAC and PCCD to keep them advised of subcommittee activities and program implementation. These reports serve as information dissemination tools and help maintain and promote the State's focus on the DMC issue. Through the JCJC, cultural diversity training is offered to court staff and minorities are actively recruited for court positions. In addition, a staff position within PCCD provides critical support to the subcommittee, supports program planning and development, and provides technical assistance under the DMC Initiative.

The utility of the coalition model. The coalition model encourages networking and resource consolidation. This model requires dedication by a wide range of concerned people and organizations over an extended time period. Because of the sheer number of individuals and organizations involved, initiating and sustaining coordination and momentum are inherently challenging. The importance of having the police, schools, probation, and community-based agencies involved in the coalition's decisionmaking cannot be overemphasized. Pennsylvania's effort in forming coalitions in its first three targeted DMC areas has proven effective in breaking down barriers among agencies and securing local funding. Funding staff positions for the coalitions proved critical to maintaining and enhancing these community-based groups.

The data-driven and data-based approach and ongoing data analysis. Pennsylvania's need-based selection of DMC sites was determined by total arrest rates, size of the minority population, and the overrepresentation of minorities in arrest rates. In addition, using data from the Pennsylvania State Police, the JCJC, the State Data Center, and the National Center for Juvenile Justice, Pennsylvania analyzes minority over-representation annually to determine changes that have occurred in disproportionate minority processing in the juvenile justice system at arrest, detention, prosecution, adjudication, transfer to criminal court, and State and local confinement. These annual analyses are conducted for the State as a whole and for the 18 counties in which 96 percent of the State's total minority juvenile population resides. This ongoing monitoring helps guide the actions of the subcommittee and JAC and provides valuable feedback regarding the impact of Pennsylvania's program efforts. For example, the State's 1995 DMC data showed encouraging signs of progress as compared with its 1988 data. Although the minority juvenile population who are at risk increased from 12 percent in 1988 to 13 percent in 1995, minority juveniles confined in secure detention and correctional facilities decreased from 73 percent to 66 percent and minority juvenile arrests decreased from 30 percent to 29 percent. Minority juveniles transferred to adult court, however, increased from 71 percent in 1988 to 72 percent in 1995.

The systematic and stepwise approach. Instead of tackling the DMC issue throughout the State all at once, Pennsylvania has adopted the strategy of first targeting jurisdictions or communities with the greatest DMC concerns (Harrisburg in Dauphin County, the 25th Police District in Philadelphia, and Allegheny County, in that order, plus Lehigh and Northampton counties for Hispanic juveniles). Within each of the first two target areas, planning and program funding were facilitated by a local coalition of community organizations brought together to address the DMC problem. As Harrisburg and Philadelphia began the evaluation phase, Pennsylvania formed a local coalition and planning process in Allegheny County, the third target area, which is expected to benefit from the cumulative experience of the earlier two.

The emphasis on prevention and early intervention. In Pennsylvania, overrepresentation of minorities in the juvenile justice system begins at arrest -- minorities are arrested at a rate two times their proportion in the general population. Overrepresentation more than doubles at the detention stage and increases slightly at the point of commitment to juvenile corrections. More than five times as many minority juveniles are transferred to criminal court compared with their numbers in the general population (Center for Juvenile Justice Training and Research, 1989 and 1995). Because the difference between minority and nonminority juvenile representation is amplified at each decision point from early to later stages, Pennsylvania has elected prevention and early intervention as its primary DMC strategy. All five DMC projects in Harrisburg, six in Philadelphia, and three in Allegheny County are designed to reduce DMC at the front end of the juvenile justice system. Reducing overrepresentation in the early stages is expected to further reduce minority representation at later stages in the system. It is important to note that, based on an early and deliberate subcommittee decision, all of these projects are located in established, neighborhood-based organizations with a history of working with at-risk minority youth.

The inclusion of evaluation in the implementation phase. All too frequently, DMC programs and initiatives have neglected to build in an evaluation component. The Temple evaluation is an interactive approach, which means that the evaluators work with the programs during the course of the study to identify ongoing problems and to suggest options for change. The programs address issues as they arise rather than waiting until the evaluation is complete. Evaluation assessments of process and program content are ongoing. The results are used to design valid outcome measures for each individual program and for the initiative as a whole. However, the overall goal of reducing the number of minority youth in the juvenile justice system and the extent to which the programs meet their other objectives, such as improving educational performance, employment, and interpersonal relationship skills, are addressed for all programs.

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