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Minority Youth Over Representation in the Juvenile Justice System: An Overview of the Issue and Federal and State Responses

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Title: Minority Youth Over Representation in the Juvenile Justice System: An Overview of the Issue and Federal and State Responses


1
Minority Youth Over Representation in the
Juvenile Justice System An Overview of the
Issue and Federal and State Responses
  • Michael J. Leiber, Ph.d.
  • Virginia Commonwealth University
  • mjleiber_at_vcu.edu
  • Presented at the Youth Violence Prevention
    Conference University of Missouri-St. Louis
  • April 8, 2010

2
Background
  • In 1989, the disproportionate minority
    confinement mandate (DMC) was passed as part of
    the reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice and
    Delinquency Prevention (JJDP) Act of 1974 (Public
    Law 93-415, section 223a23.

3
Background
  • States receiving funds from the federal
    government are to develop a comprehensive
    approach to the disproportionate minority youth
    presence in the juvenile justice system
  • - Formula Grant Funds

4
Background
  • In 2002, the DMC mandate was amended as part of
    the reauthorization of the JJDP Act
  • address juvenile delinquency prevention
    efforts and system improvement efforts designed
    to reduce, without establishing or requiring
    numerical standards or quotas, the
    disproportionate number of juvenile members of
    minority groups, who come into contact with the
    juvenile justice system.
  • Changed from confinement to contact

5
DMC - History
  • The purpose of the DMC Core Requirement remains
    the same to ensure equal and fair treatment for
    every youth in the juvenile justice system,
    regardless of race and ethnicity.

6
DMC mandate
7
DMC mandate
  • Interrelated and Ongoing Stages
  • Identification extent of presence
  • Assessment search for causes/
    contributing factors
  • Interventions reduce DMC
  • Evaluation see if interventions working
  • Monitoring assess over time

8
Extent of Presence
  • Nation wide
  • From 2002 to 2004, African Americans were
  • 16 of youth.
  • 28 of juvenile arrests.
  • 30 of referrals to juvenile court.
  • 37 of the detained population.
  • 34 of youth formally processed by the juvenile
    court.
  • 30 of adjudicated youth.
  • 35 of youth judicially waived to criminal
    court.
  • 38 of youth in residential placement.
  • 58 of youth admitted to state adult prison.

9
Latest stats - 2005
  • See Table 1

10
DMC assessment phase
  • The purpose of conducting an assessment study is
    to provide policy makers and system practitioners
    with precise information upon which interventions
    can be developed and implemented to reduce DMC
  • A search for causes, contributing factors to DMC

11
DMC
  • To understand DMC
  • Differential offending
  • minorities commit more crime and more
  • serious crime
  • Tracy some studies that find evidence of bias,
  • discover minorities commit more crime

12
DMC
  • Arrests suggest race differences in delinquent
    behavior or differential offending however,
  • problems with arrests- police deployment
    patterns, race profiling, biased
    decision-making, data itself

13
DMC BACKGROUND
  • Additionally,
  • some self-report survey data indicate few
    race differences in the commission of delinquency
  • (e.g., Piquero Brame, 2008).
  • Or Huizinga and colleagues (2007) found that the
    extent of self-report differential offending did
    not solely account for differences in police
    referrals to juvenile court

14
DMC BACKGROUND
  • Second explanation for DMC, selection bias
  • This is where the system focus comes into play

15
DMC BACKGROUND
  • Bias has many forms
  • Direct intentional, overt, conscious
  • Subtle unintentional, indirect, unconscious
  • tied to legitimate factors but
    racially
  • tainted, just as harmful,
    disadvantaged

16
DMC
  • Subtle unintentional, indirect tied to
    legitimate and extralegal factors
  • e.g., assessments about family Pope and
    Feyerherm
  • secure detention
    Leiber and Fox
  • Assessment studies need to be conducted with this
    in mind

17
DMC - Other Examples of Subtle Bias
  • Bridges and Steens (1998) analysis of
    pre-disposition reports written by juvenile
    probation officers provides powerful evidence of
    racial stereotypes and their influence on
    recommendations at disposition. In these
    accounts, race was correlated with attributions
    about the causes of crime and to perceptions of
    the risk of re-offending and harsher
    dispositions.

18
DMC BACKGROUND
  • That is, probation officers more often attributed
    offending among whites to external and alterable
    causes (e.g., delinquent peers, problems at
    school), while crimes committed by African
    American youth were more often attributed to
    internal and enduring character traits (e.g.,
    aggressiveness, lack of remorse).
  • These causal attributions corroborated beliefs
    that minority offenders are more dangerous than
    whites, which in turn provided the basis for more
    punitive recommendations (see also, Steen et al.
    2005).

19
DMC BACKGROUND
  • Graham and Lowery (2004) also found attributions
    about the causes of crime to be linked to racial
    disparities in punishment responses among
    juvenile court probation officers and police
    officers.

20
DMC assessment
  • Studies of Juvenile Justice System
  • Pope and Feyerherm (1993)
  • Pope and colleagues (2003)
  • Bishop (2005)
  • Engen and colleagues (2005)
  • Pope and Leiber (2005)
  • Conclude most studies find evidence of overt
    and subtle bias even after considering influence
    of legal and extralegal factors

21
DMC BACKGROUND
  • Appears Both Differential Offending and
    Selection Bias play a role in DMC

22
DMC mandate
23
DMC BACKGROUND
  • If differential offending as a reason for DMC
  • Interventions focus on crime prevention
  • family dysfunction
  • drugs
  • negative peer influences,
    associations
  • lack of quality education
  • lack of access to meaningful
    employment

24
DMC BACKGROUND
  • If bias accounts for DMC
  • Example Solutions
  • structure decision making at detention
  • and intake (race neutral)
  • cultural sensitivity training
  • advocates
  • diversity in hiring
  • education

25
DMC
  • Recently, Bishop (2005), Kempf-Leonard (2007) and
    Piquero (2008)
  • have argued that there is a need to examine
    factors that may be linked to both differential
    offending and selection bias
  • e.g., impoverished communities, heavy emphasis
    on crime control, high crime rates, etc.

26
DMC mandate
  • Evaluations/Monitoring
  • Overall, there are only a few interventions that
    have been evaluated (e.g., detention diversion
    advocacy program or DDAP, Alternatives for
    Youths Advocacy initiative or AFY, detention
    reform in Multnomah county)
  • These have shown some success at reducing DMC.

27
DMC mandate
  • Given that twenty years have passed since the
    passage of the DMC mandate, this is a significant
    limitation since there are relatively few known
    evaluations of strategies created and implemented
    to reduce minority overrepresentation.

28
DMC mandate
  • Success or Failure?
  • On one side of the continuum,
  • Tracy (2005 2002) views as a failure,
    wrong
  • focus, should be on crime prevention

29
DMC mandate
  • Another view but seen as failure
  • Bell and Ridolfi (2008) of the W. Haywood Burns
    Institute critique of the DMC mandate centers on
    the lack of benchmarks and the failure to change
    procedures that result in bias and minority youth
    overrepresentation in the juvenile justice system

30
DMC mandate
  • Leiber and Rodriguez are in the middle of these 2
    views -
  • some problems, some room for improvement
  • but also see advances
  • not a zero sum situation. Bringing about change
    within organizations is often slow, complex and
    evolutionary. It is a process involving forward
    movement, backward movement, and at times, no
    movement.

31
DMC mandate
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