OJJDP Research To Identify Best Practices for Reducing Disproportionate Minority Contact

Photo of teenage boy
One of the four core requirements of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974, as amended, is to reduce the disproportionate numbers of minority youth who come into contact with the juvenile justice system. Despite significant progress in recent years, minorities remain overrepresented throughout the justice system continuum. Long a leader in the nation's effort to reduce disproportionate minority contact (DMC), OJJDP continues to increase the number and scope of its resources—including training, technical assistance, and research—to help states address this issue.

Successful reform of the juvenile justice system depends on the use of scientifically proven strategies. OJJDP is committed to research and evaluation that produce evidence of which programs work best, and why. One of OJJDP's field-initiated research grants is supporting comprehensive data analysis and the identification of the most successful strategies for reducing DMC. The study will inform policymakers, researchers, and practitioners on how to best think about the causes of, and solutions for, racial disparities in their own jurisdictions.

OJJDP's 3-year grant was awarded to the Development Services Group, Inc., to conduct a national analysis of Relative Rate Index (RRI) data. The RRI, which compares the rates of contact with the justice system for white youth with the rates for minority youth, has proven to be a highly accurate tool for comparisons across time and racial groups. The data analysis will identify jurisdictions that have shown a consistent improvement in RRI values over 3 consecutive years. Researchers will then obtain detailed information on the approaches used by these jurisdictions and produce case studies that can be replicated by other jurisdictions.

The study, slated for completion in September 2012, will yield data on DMC in localities and states across the nation at the nine contact points in the juvenile justice system. An assessment of the longitudinal RRI data and state plans will identify promising and best practices for addressing DMC.

"This study will be the first to systematically examine all of the collected data at each DMC contact point to identify data-driven best practices in reducing DMC for states and counties," said Marcia Cohen, the study's principal investigator.

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For more information on OJJDP's field-initiated research grant, please contact Andrea Coleman, OJJDP's DMC Team Lead, at 202–514–1319 or at Andrea.Coleman@usdoj.gov.


The Nine Contact Points in the Juvenile Justice System

  • Arrest
  • Referral
  • Diversion
  • Detention
  • Petition
  • Finding of delinquency
  • Probation
  • Confinement in a secure correctional facility
  • Transfer to adult court