Minority youth were overrepresented in custody facilities given their share of the general poplulation


Federal requirements have focused attention on disproportionate confinement of minority youth

The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act's provisions regarding "disproportionate minority confinement" require that States determine whether the proportion of minorities in confinement exceeds their proportion in the general population. If such overrepresentation is found, States must implement efforts to reduce it.

Since this requirement went into effect in 1992, numerous States have made assessments of their disproportionate minority confinement and begun to implement reduction efforts.

Minority overrepresentation in custody has increased

In 1995, 32% of the U.S. population ages 10-17 was classified as minorities. Minorities made up 68% of the detention center population on February 15, 1995. Their proportion had risen from 65% of the detention center population on February 15, 1991, and 53% on February 1, 1983. Similarly, the minority proportion of the custody population in public long-term facilities with institutional environments (such as training schools) rose from 56% in 1983 to 69% in 1991. In 1995 the minority proportion in these facilities leveled off at 68%.

There are some limitations to the Children in Custody data

Information on juveniles in custody is drawn from OJJDP's Children in Custody Census of juvenile facilities. Since 1971, facilities have been asked to complete a census questionnaire every other year. The census includes residential detention, correctional, and shelter facilities for juveniles and group homes for three or more juveniles. Excluded are facilities exclusively for drug treatment or for emotionally disturbed or maltreated children, as are Federal facilities. The analysis also excluded facilities with fewer than 1% offenders or fewer than 50% juveniles (except for facilities operated by the California Youth Authority).

The response rate for public facilities has always been virtually 100%, but among private facilities the response rate has never reached the 100% level. For this reason, private facility population counts are believed to be somewhat of an undercount. Because it is not known what impact variations in private facility response rates from year to year have had on the data, private facility trends are not presented.

Facilities report two types of resident data -- 1-day counts and annual facility admission and release counts. One-day counts provide a picture of the standing population; admissions and releases provide a measure of the population flow. However, admission/release data do not represent a count of the number of youth entering/exiting custody, as a youth may be admitted to and released from custody more than once during the year.

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Juvenile Offenders and Victims: 1997 Update on Violence