Today, the W. Haywood Burns Institute (BI) and the Center for Children’s Law and Policy (CCLP) submitted recommendations to the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) aimed at strengthening the agency’s approach to reducing racial and ethnic disparities in the youth justice system. CCLP and BI prepared the joint recommendations in response to OJJDP’s call for public comment on proposed revisions to regulations for the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA). OJJDP published the proposed regulations on August 8, 2016 and is accepting public comments until October 7.

The JJDPA, the most important federal statute affecting the youth justice system, provides funding to states in exchange for compliance with certain requirements. One of the JJDPA’s core requirements is that states must develop plans to “study” and “address” racial and ethnic disparities within the juvenile justice system.

However, the requirement has had limited impact. “The federal requirement is vague, and progress in the states has been uneven. OJJDP needs to develop a dynamic vision for change in this area and provide states and local communities with more effective guidance, training, and assistance,” said Mark Soler, CCLP’s Executive Director. “These regulations can be an important vehicle for reform.”

The JJDPA has not been reauthorized by Congress since 2002, and the regulations have not been updated since 1996. Staff at the CCLP and BI are urging OJJDP to act now to refine the regulations to reflect best practices and strategies that have led to measurable improvements for youth of color.

“With guidance and intentionality, reducing racial and ethnic disparities is possible,” said James Bell, BI’s Executive Director. “Reductions in racial and ethnic disparities require three things: intentional and willful focus from local governments; a clear process of using data to drive policy change; and authentic engagement of communities of color that have been most harmed by the justice system.”

You can view the joint recommendations from CCLP and the BI by following this link. For questions about the recommendations, please contact Laura John Ridolfi, BI Policy Director, at 415-321-4100 x108 or and Tiana Davis, CCLP’s Policy Director for Equity and Justice at 202-637-0377 x103 or