Reducing Racial and Ethnic Disparities

The Center for Children's Law and Policy has helped many jurisdictions reduce over-representation of youth of color in the justice system, stop the disparate treatment of youth of color at key decision points, prevent youth of color from entering and moving deeper into the juvenile justice system.

The tools and resources here are designed to assist jurisdictions in their efforts to eliminate racial and ethnic disparities. Click on the individual links below to learn more about these tools.

Racial and Ethnic Disparities Reduction Practice Manual

The Racial and Ethnic Disparities Reduction Practice Manual (RED Practice Manual) is a new web-based tool for public officials, agency administrators, community leaders, parents, and other advocates for children who are working to create more equitable and effective juvenile justice systems. The RED Practice Manual provides practitioners with concrete guidance and strategies, downloadable tools and resources, and examples of successful reform work in jurisdictions throughout the country. Visit the RED Practice Manual page by clicking this link.

Reducing Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Juvenile Justice Certificate Program

CCLP is collaborating with the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform at Georgetown University to offer an intensive training designed to support local jurisdictions in their efforts to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in their juvenile justice system. Click here for more information on the program, including application instructions.

CCLP/DMC Action Network Publications

  • DMC e-News reports on efforts to reduce Disproportionate Minority Contact, or DMC, in juvenile justice systems in the DMC Action Network. Sign up here to receive DMC eNews by email, or download a previous issue below.

    • DMC eNews Issue #37 -- Sherry Lupton Wins the Ruby M. Payne Cook Award and New MacArthur Cross-Network Grants March 2014 [Download]
    • DMC eNews Issue #36 -- Outagamie County Closes ItsJuvenile Detention CenterJanuary/February 2014 [Download]
    • DMC eNews Issue #35 -- Comprehensive Training on Reducing Racial and Ethnic Disparities in the Juvenile Justice System and Resources about Trauma-Informed Care October 2013 [Download]
    • DMC eNews Issue #34 -- Outagamie Embraces Family Engagement, Drops Arrest Rates 32% and Lancaster's Interfaith Community Network Tackles DMC July/August 2013 [Download]
    • DMC eNews Issue #33 -- New Program to Support Local Efforts to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Juvenile Justice Mar 2013 [Download]
    • DMC eNews Issue #32 -- Replicating the DMC Action Network Approach and Getting Results in Connecticut Oct/Nov 2012 [Download]
    • DMC eNews Issue #31 -- Taking DMC Reduction Strategies Statewide in North Carolina July/Aug 2012 [Download]
    • DMC eNews Issue #30 -- MacArthur Foundation, OJJDP Support Data-Driven DMC Reduction in Two New Jurisdictions April/May 2012 [Download]
    • DMC eNews Issue #29 -- New Collaboration Extends DMC Action Network’s Impact and SAMHSA, MacArthur Collaborate to Better Serve Youth With Behavioral Health Needs March 2012 [Download]
    • DMC eNews Issue #28 -- By the Numbers: Signs of Progress from Rapides Parish, Louisiana and CCLP Launches New Project to Eliminate Racial and Ethnic Disparities Jan/Feb 2012 [Download]
    • DMC eNews Issue #27 -- 2011 DMC Action Network Champion for Change and Models for Change Sixth Annual Working Conference Nov/Dec 2011 [Download]
    • DMC eNews Issue #26 -- Connecticut Replicates DMC Action Network Strategies at the State and Local Level Sept/Oct 2011 [Download]
    • DMC eNews Issue #25 -- Having Faith: Partnering with Religious Organizations to Help Combat DMC Aug 2011 [Download]
    • DMC eNews Issue #24 -- Committing to Change, Getting Results and Berks County, PA Selected as Demonstration Site for Georgetown University Program June/July 2011 [Download]
    • DMC eNews Issue #23 -- Changing Cultures to Improve Outcomes for Youth of Color May 2011 [Download]
    • DMC eNews Issue #22 -- Getting Results: How Sedgwick County, Kansas, Slashed Arrest Rates for Youth of Color and Federal Government Issues New Guidance for State Courts Serving Limited English Proficient Youth and Family Members Apr 2011 [Download]
    • DMC eNews Issue #21 -- Championing DMC at the State Level Feb/Mar 2011 [Download]
    • DMC eNews Issue #20 -- Confronting the Challenges of DMC Reduction: Staying Focused on Reform in Rapides Parish, LA Jan 2011 [Download]
    • DMC eNews Issue #19 -- Jason Witt of Rock County, WI Wins 2010 Champion for Change Award for Work to Reduce DMC Dec 2010 [Download]
    • DMC eNews Issue #18 -- Berks County, Pennsylvania, Wins Community-Based Program of the Year for Evening Reporting Center  Nov 2010 [Download]
    • DMC eNews Issue #17 -- Hitting the Ground Running: Putting DMC Reduction on the Fast Track in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania  Oct 2010 [Download]
    • DMC eNews Issue #16 -- A Formula That Works: Community Engagement and Data-Driven Strategies for DMC Reduction in Benton-Franklin Counties  Sept 2010 [Download]
    • DMC eNews Issue #15 -- Thinking Outside the Box: Baltimore City, Maryland’s Approach to DMC Reduction  Aug 2010 [Download]
    • DMC eNews Issue #14 -- How Sedgwick County, Kansas, Leverages Resources to Advance Reforms in Tough Economic Times and Jefferson Parish Children and Youth Planning Board Honored at National Juvenile Justice Network Annual Forum July 2010 [Download]
    • DMC eNews Issue #13 -- The MIMIC Model: Turning Around the Lives of North Philadelphia Youth and DMC Employment and Presentation Opportunities  June 2010 [Download]
    • DMC eNews Issue #12 -- DMC Action Network Fourth Annual Meeting and Local DMC Leadership in Centralized Juvenile Justice Systems  May 2010 [Download]
    • DMC eNews Issue #11 -- Working together on DMC Reform & TA Tips  Apr 2010 [Download]
    • DMC eNews Issue #10 -- Taking Strategic Innovations Statewide & Framing the Dialogue on DMC Reform  Mar 2010 [Download]
    • DMC eNews Issue #9 -- Tackling DMC at the Deep End of the System  Feb 2010 [Download]
    • DMC eNews Issue #8 -- A New Decade of DMC Reduction  Jan 2010 [Download]
    • DMC eNews Issue #7 -- Expanding the DMC Action Network  Dec 2009 [Download]
    • DMC eNews Issue #6 -- 35 Years of the JJDPA  Nov 2009 [Download]
    • DMC eNews Issue #5 -- DMC Reductions: Signs of Progress  Aug 2009 [Download]
    • DMC eNews Issue #4 -- Third Annual DMC Action Network Meeting  Jul 2009 [Download]
    • DMC eNews Issue #3 -- Burns Institute Data  Feb 2009 [Download]
    • DMC eNews Issue #2 -- What DMC Reduction Is-- and Is Not  Dec 2008 [Download]
    • DMC eNews Issue #1 -- Intro to the DMC Action Network  Nov 2008 [Download]
  • Reducing Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Pennsylvania [Download]
    Across the United States, youth of color are disproportionately represented at every stage of the juvenile justice system, with the greatest disparities at the deepest end of the system. Although every state is required to address racial and ethnic disparities as a condition of receiving federal juvenile justice funds, few places have gotten beyond studying the problem. In Pennsylvania, with support from the Models for Change initiative, several jurisdictions took the next steps and implemented effective, data-driven reforms to reduce disparities. These reforms included improved data gathering and analysis, increased cultural competence, implementation of objective screening instruments, development of alternatives to detention and out-of-home placement, improved probation practices, work with the faith-based community, and training and collaboration with law enforcement.

  • Partnering with Schools to Reduce Juvenile Justice Referrals [Download]
    In Peoria, Illinois, a large number of African-American youth were entering detention for aggravated battery in one public high school. After learning more about the problem, local juvenile justice and school officials, with support from the Models for Change initiative, launched a pilot project to address fights and other incidents on campus using principles of Balanced and Restorative Justice (BARJ). Once implemented, the low-cost interventions resulted in a 35 percent reduction in school-based referrals to detention for all youth, and a 43 percent reduction for African-American youth. This pilot project served as a springboard for broader implementation of BARJ programming as an alternative to formal processing in schools and in the community.

  • Reforming Automatic Transfer Laws: A Success Story [Download]
    In the mid-1980s, the Illinois Legislature took a tough stance on drug use among youth. As part of a national trend toward harsher punishments for juveniles, lawmakers decided to prosecute in adult court all 15- and 16-year-olds charged with drug offenses within 1,000 feet of a school or public housing development. Although the law applied to youth throughout the state, its effects were felt most harshly by children of color from Chicago. Armed with data gathered with support from the Models for Change initiative, advocates overcame criticism that proposed reforms were “soft on crime” and mounted a successful campaign to change the law. Within two years, automatic transfers in Cook County, which includes Chicago, fell by two-thirds—without compromising public safety.

  • Guidelines for State Courts Serving Limited English Proficient (LEP) Youth and Family Members [Download short fact sheet] [Download long fact sheet]
    Good communication and cultural understanding are prerequisites to a fair, efficient, and effective justice system. Navigating the juvenile justice system is often difficult for youth and their families. For those from different linguistic backgrounds, understanding the process can be particularly challenging, and misunderstanding or confusion can contribute to their overrepresentation and harsher treatment in the system. In these two fact sheets, CCLP outlines the obligations of state courts that serve limited English proficient youth and family members, including the Justice Department's new guidance from the fall of 2010.

  • BI Level One Data Reporting Tool [Download version 2.2] [Download version 2.1]
    DMC Action Network Sites employ the the BI Level One Data Reporting Tool to support their work in reducing DMC through data-driven strategies. The W. Haywood Burns Institute (BI) developed the template and piloted it in Peoria, Illinois, which is a Network site. The template collects data on arrests, secure detention, use of alternatives to detention, and other aspects of the juvenile justice system. Version 2.2 disaggregates these data by race, ethnicity, gender, geography (e.g., zip code), and offense. Version 2.1 also disaggregates these data, but was developed for jurisdictions with data systems that do not yet have the ability to distinguish ethnicity from race.
  • Missed Opportunity: Waiver, Race, Data, and Policy Reform [Download]
    In this article from the Louisiana Law Review, CCLP Executive Director Mark Soler examines the research on waiver of youth to adult court and racial disparities in the juvenile justice system. The article argues that the failure to gather and analyze waiver data by race and ethnicity to help guide policy reform is a missed opportunity, and it proposes new collection and analysis techniques that would enable jurisdictions to change waiver policies and practices to reduce DMC.

  • Strategies for Serving Hispanic Youth [Download]
    CCLP Deputy Director Dana Shoenberg co-authored this chapter in the latest edition of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention's Disproportionate Minority Contact Technical Assistance Manual. The chapter, written with Maria F. Ramiu of the Youth Law Center, describes lessons learned from a two-year project in Washoe County, Nevada, and Travis County, Texas, that was designed to develop new and accurate data collection methods for Hispanic youth and to reduce DMC for Hispanic and other youth at key decision points.
  • Reducing Disproportionate Minority Contact: Preparation at the Local Level [Download]
    The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention released a bulletin on local DMC reduction strategies, co-authored by CCLP's Mark Soler and Lisa Garry. It is the first in a series by OJJDP to address DMC. It provides valuable information on the context in which local preparation occurs, as well as specific strategies to successfully engage communities in DMC reduction efforts. 
  • Guidelines for Collecting and Recording the Race and Ethnicity of Juveniles in Conjunction with Juvenile Delinquency Disposition Reporting to the Juvenile Court Judges' Commission [Download]
    This booklet provides instruction and guidance to local juvenile courts and probation departments on the accurate racial and ethnic coding of juveniles, particularly with respect to Hispanic and Latino youth (with Patricia Torbet & Hunter Hurst, Jr., National Center for Juvenile Justice).
  • Building Blocks for Youth [link]
    Building Blocks for Youth was a multi-strategy, multi-site initiative that featured an alliance of children and youth advocates, researchers, community organizers, and law enforcement professionals working to address DMC. The initiative operated from 1998 to 2005. CCLP maintains a page dedicated to Building Blocks for Youth that contains includes electronic copies of all research reports from the initiative.  
  • No Turning Back: Promising Approaches to Reducing Racial and Ethnic Disparities in the Justice System [Download]
    This is the final report issued by the Building Blocks for Youth initiative, which details the program's site-based work from 1998 to 2005.

CCLP/DMC Action Network Presentations

  • DMC Action Network Process Slides [Download]
    These powerpoint slides visually outline the DMC Action Network's model for DMC reduction and the stakeholders necessary for a diverse DMC governing body.

  • DMC Action Network Meetings
    • May 2010 Meeting [Link]
    • May 2009 Meeting [Link]
    • September 2008 Meeting [Link]
    • June 2008 Meeting [Link]
    • October 2007 Meeting [Link]
  • DMC Action Network Technical Assistance Seminars
    • DMC Coordinators [Link]
    • Post-Disposition Strategies [Link]
  • Batting with Two Strikes: Brown and Young in the Juvenile Justice System [Download]
    In this presentation from July 2010, CCLP Executive Director Mark Soler discusses DMC and Latino youth in the juvenile justice system at the National Council for La Raza's National Conference in San Antonio, Texas. The presentation highlights the lack of information on Latino youth in the system, as well as promising strategies for improving data collection and reducing DMC.

  • Testimony of Mark Soler to the Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law, Senate Judiciary Committee, on U.S. Compliance with International Human Rights Treaties [Download]
    In this testimony from December 2009, Executive Director Mark Soler highlights the issue of disparate treatment of youth of color in the juvenile justice system light of the International Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Racial Discrimination. The testimony outlines how America's juvenile justice system falls short of the principles set forth in the Convention, which afford "[t]he right to equal treatment before the tribunals and all other organs administering justice.
  • Reducing Racial and Ethnic Disparities in the Juvenile Justice System [Download]
    In this presentation, Deputy Director Dana Shoenberg outlines current data on disparities, successful strategies to reduce DMC, and mental health needs of youth in the juvenile justice system.

Other Resources

  • State-by-State Interactive DMC Map [link]
    The W. Haywood Burns Institute (BI) provides an interactive map that captures racial and ethnic disparities in juvenile justice by state and by county. The new resource includes one-day count incarceration data, annual data by decision-making point in the juvenile justice system, and a host of other information.
  • America's Invisible Children: Latino Youth and the Failure of Justice [Download]
    The Campaign for Youth Justice and the National Council of La Raza detail how Latino youth are treated more harshly than white youth, for similar offenses, at all stages in the justice system. The groups report that 1 out of 4 incarcerated Latino youth are held in adult facilities and make substantive recommendations for reducing disparities throughout the system.
  • The Keeper and the Kept: Reflections on Local Obstacles to Disparities Reduction in Juvenile Justice Systems and a Path to Change [Download]
    Most nonviolent youth offenders are incarcerated because alternative services including mental health or counseling are no longer available in communities. When it comes to youth of color in particular, decisions to incarcerate are often driven by “zero tolerance” policies, and fear. In The Keeper and the Kept, James Bell, Laura John Ridolfi, Michael Finley and Clinton Lacey challenge this overreliance on detention and offer an introduction to the BI method.
  • Adoration of the Question: Reflections on the Failure to Reduce Racial & Ethnic Disparities in the Juvenile Justice System [Download]
    This is the first in a series of reports from the W. Haywood Burns Institute (BI). Published in December 2008, the publication introduces the foundation of the BI approach by examining the historical antecedents that continue to influence the juvenile justice system.The publication outlines the early juvenile justice system and its approach toward youth of color, and then examines Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC) and its perceived causes. It also discusses the importance of strengthening the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act.

  • Speaking Out: Latino Youth on Discrimination in the United States [Download]
    This October 2010 report by the National Council of La Raza illustrates how Latino youth in the U.S. experience pervasive stereotyping based on assumptions about their ethnicity. The publication looks at the perceptions and experiences of Latino teenagers in settings as varied as school, the workplace, the streets, and in their interactions with law enforcement. The study also points to protective factors such as resiliency and parental support. The authors analyzed focus groups of children of Hispanic immigrants in four cities across the nation: Langley Park, MD; Nashville, TN; Los Angeles, LA; Providence, Rhode Island.
  • Reducing Racial Disparity in the Criminal Justice System [Download]
    The Sentencing Project has published a new edition of Reducing Racial Disparity in the Criminal Justice System, a manual for practitioners, policymakers, and community organizations. Although it focuses on the adult system, the manual’s workable solutions and “best practices” also apply to juvenile justice systems.
  • Native American Youth and the Juvenile Justice System [Download]
    This March 2008 study by the National Council on Crime and Delinquency finds that the disproportionate representation of Native American youth in the juvenile justice is at its highest for the two most punitive sanctions: waiver to the adult system and out-of-home placement. Additionally, the report states Native American youth are 30% more likely than White youth to be referred to court, 10% more likely to be detained while awaiting trial, and 50% more likely to receive the most punitive measures.
  • Critical Condition: African-American Youth in the Justice System [Download]
    The Campaign for Youth Justice and the NAACP examine how African-American youth are disproportionately affected by the adult and juvenile justice system. African-American youth overwhelmingly receive harsher treatment than white youth in the juvenile justice system at most stages of case processing. Disparities start at the beginning, when a decision is made to arrest a child. African-American youth make up 30% of those arrested while they only represent 17% of the overall youth population. At the other extreme end of the system, African-American youth are 62% of the youth prosecuted in the adult criminal system and are nine times more likely than white youth to receive an adult prison sentence. This brief also provides examples of promising solutions and policy recommendations to reduce the disparities.
  • A Tangled Web of Justice: American Indian and Alaska Native Youth in Federal, State, and Tribal Justice Systems [Download]
    This policy brief from the Campaign for Youth Justice examines the status of Native youth involved in the juvenile and criminal justice systems. Native American youth are regularly prosecuted in three distinct justice systems: federal, state, and tribal. Native youth are more likely to receive to the two most severe punishments in juvenile
    justice systems: out-of-home placement (i.e., incarceration in a state correctional facility) and waiver to the adult system. Compared to white youth, Native youth are 1.5 times more likely to receive out-of-home placement and are 1.5 times more likely to be waived to the adult criminal system. Nationwide, the average rate of new commitment
    to adult state prison for Native youth is 1.84 times that of white youth.
  • Disproportionate Minority Contact, in The Future of Children Volume 18 Number 2 Fall 2008 [Download]
    The Fall 2008 issue of The Future of Children featured juvenile justice issues, including DMC. Alex R. Piquero provides an overview of this issue in this article.
  • Disproportionate Minority Contact: Technical Assistance Manual (4th Edition) [Download]
    Updated in July 2009, this Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention publication provides detailed guidance on DMC identification and monitoring, assessment, intervention, and evaluation. Its intended audience is Juvenile Justice Specialists, members of State Planning Agencies and State Advisory Groups, DMC researchers and consultants, and policymakers and practitioners involved in the juvenile justice system at the state and local levels.

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DMC Action Network eNews reports on successes, challenges, and current resources in DMC reduction.

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