U.S. Department of Justice, Office Of Justice Programs, Innovation - Partnerships - Safer Neighborhoods
Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), Serving Children, Families, and Communities

National Disproportionate Minority Contact Databook

What is an RRI?
an RRI Matrix
National RRIs
DMC Data Sources

OJJDP Statistical Briefing Book logo

Constructing an RRI Matrix

If you think of the juvenile justice system as a set of individual decisions, the RRI concept can be used to assess the level of racial disparity introduced at each decision point—if the numerator and denominator used to construct the rates are carefully selected. OJJDP provides guidance for creating case processing rates to identify and monitor disproportionality. The general rule in creating the rates to be used in an RRI is to select a denominator that captures the decisionmaking stage immediately preceding the stage measured by the numerator or, in other words, the stage that feeds the numerator. For example, to a great extent arrests feed juvenile court referrals; if arrests increase, most likely juvenile court referrals will increase. There are certainly other paths to juvenile court beyond arrest (e.g., parents may refer the youth or a probation officer may refer a youth back to court on a probation violation); but arrest is the most controlling preceding stage. And for the detention, diversion, and petition decisions, referral to court is the feeder stage, and so on through system processing decision points. For the "by gender" table, arrests are used as the denominator to create referral rates. In practice, sometimes the data at one stage is not available. For example, we know that the race groups included in national arrest estimates do not match those in the juvenile court data. As a result, the "by race/ethnicity" and "by gender and race/ethnicity" tables use population estimates as the denominator for referral rates. For the remaining stages, rates are created as follows:

  • juvenile court referrals is the denominator for pre-disposition detentions
  • juvenile court referrals is the denominator for diversion
  • juvenile court referrals is the denominator for petitions
  • petitions is the denominator for adjudications
  • adjudications is the denominator for formal probation
  • adjudications is the denominator for out-of-home placements
  • petitions is the denominator for waivers

Using a set of decision process rates (e.g., juvenile court referral rate, detention rate, diversion rate, petition rate, waiver rate, adjudication rate, etc.) an RRI can be developed to compare demographic subgroups. By dividing one group's rate for a decision point by another group's rate at the same decision point, the relative rate (or the relative size of one rate to the other) can be calculated. Some decisions increase the extent of minority youth contact with the justice system. Other decisions (those with Relative Rate Indices equal to 1.0) neither increase nor decrease disparity but maintain the level of disparity that resulted from prior decisions. The magnitude of racial disparity at any decision point in the juvenile justice system is a combination of the disparities introduced at prior decision points plus that added by the decision point of interest. Studying the set of Relative Rate Indices for a specific decision process enables us to see the unique contributions made by each decision point to the overall disparity in the system.

Developed and maintained by the National Center for Juvenile Justice, with funding from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.