March | April 2014

OJJDP Holds Listening Session on Racial and Ethnic Disparities

On March 28, 2014, OJJDP convened a daylong listening session with some of the nation’s leading juvenile justice reform advocates to discuss recommendations for enhancing efforts to reduce disproportionate minority contact (DMC) with the nation’s juvenile justice system.

States participating in the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (JJDP) Act’s Part B Formula Grants program are required to address juvenile delinquency prevention and system improvement efforts to reduce the overrepresentation of minority youth in the juvenile justice system at all nine points of contact—arrest, referral, diversion, detention, petition, delinquency findings, probation, confinement in secure correctional facilities, and transfer to adult court.

Participants in the session included OJJDP Administrator Robert L. Listenbee; senior OJJDP staff; reform advocates from the W. Haywood Burns Institute for Juvenile Justice Fairness & Equity, the Annie E. Casey Foundation's Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative, Southwest Key Programs, the Center for Children’s Law and Policy, and the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform at Georgetown University; DMC coordinators from several states and local jurisdictions, including Colorado, Connecticut, Indiana, Wisconsin, Baltimore City, MD, and Montgomery County, MD; and researchers associated with OJJDP’s Field Initiated Research and Evaluation Program study, “Expanding the Use of DMC Data: Analysis of Patterns to Identify Best Practices.”

The group reached a consensus that successful strategies for reducing DMC include engaging police, judges, and the community; ensuring that data are collected accurately and basing interventions on the data; implementing objective risk assessment instruments; creating alternatives to formal system involvement; providing leadership at the local and state levels; and making DMC reduction a long-term priority.

At the same time, participants cited the need to enhance the JJDP Act’s DMC core requirement to include accountability at the state and local levels for the achievement of measurable outcomes; strengthen the Relative Rate Index (RRI), the commonly used DMC measurement tool; ensure that training and technical assistance address not only the use of RRI but also the spectrum of other complex issues surrounding DMC; and include the growing Latino population more fully in DMC data and DMC reduction initiatives.

Resources:

To access OJJDP's DMC Virtual Resource Center, DMC Reduction Best Practices Database, and National Disproportionate Minority Contact Databook, visit the Office's Web site.