Resources for Key Issues

+ What are Racial-Ethnic Disparities, or disproportionate minority contact (“DMC”)?

+ What is the scope of the problem?

  • OJJDP’s Statistical Briefing Book has interactive tools with data on youth arrests and residential placements – which can be viewed by race and ethnicity. Additional information on court statistics may be gleaned here. Bear in mind that federal data does not categorize youth by ethnicity, so Hispanic youth are often counted as “White,” thus inflating the rate of system involvement among White youth and underestimating the level of disparity when youth of color are compared to White youth.
  • To compare data state-by-state (or even at the county level), check out this powerful interactive online tool from the Burns Institute on racial disparities in juvenile justice systems across the country. Customize data, download it, review local detention statutes and reform efforts.
  • “Black Teens Who Commit a Few Crimes Go to Jail as Often as White Teens Who Commit Dozens,” from The Washington Post, describes the stark differences in how black and white teenagers are treated by the juvenile justice system, with black youth more likely to be placed in a correctional facility even though there are negligible differences between racial groups in the frequency of committing offenses.
  • Juvenile Offenders and Victims: 2014 National Report,” by the National Center for Juvenile Justice, provides a rich source of data to analyze the scope of this problem including data on the current racial and ethnic youth demographics in this country, estimates on future demographics, data on self-reports of youth offending, and data on racial variations and disparities at many points of the juvenile justice system.
  • For additional analysis on specific subpopulations, see the following:
      • For African-American, Asian/Pacific Islanders, Native American and White youth, see this 2009 publication.
      • For more detailed information on Latino/Hispanic youth, see this 2009 publication.
      • For specific information on Native American / Alaska Native youth, go here and here.
  • BLACK DISPARITIES IN YOUTH INCARCERATION – this Fact Sheet by The Sentencing Project shines a light on the worsening disparities in the rate of incarceration of black youth.


+ Why are some categories of youth often undercounted?

  • For deficiencies in federal data collection policies, see this brief analysis.
  • This presentation succinctly describes the problems with collection of data on Latino children.

+ What are some of the common causes of racial and ethnic disparities in the juvenile justice system?

  • For a succinct discussion of the barriers to racial and ethnic equity in the juvenile justice system, see this fact sheet; go here for a discussion of the scope and causes of racial and ethnic disparities, and pathways to reducing racial disparities in juvenile detention.
  • Go here for an explanation of racial and ethnic disproportionality written for legislators.
  • For an in-depth discussion of the roots of racialized outcomes in the juvenile justice system this recent article in the Cornell Law Review.
  • Want to learn more about “self-report and victimization data”? See what the National Research Council says about it in Reforming Juvenile Justice: A Developmental Approach.[1]
  • See this article in for information on a new study which found that college students and police view black children aged ten and older as significantly less innocent than white children of the same age. For the full study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, go here.
  • Interested in learning more about the relationship between law enforcement and youth of color and what can be done to help change the relationship? Have a look at this NJJN report Creating Meaningful Change in the Relationship Between Law Enforcement and Youth of Color.[1a]

+ How is the federal government addressing racial disparities in the juvenile justice system?

+ What are obstacles to reducing racial-ethnic disparities?

  • See this paper for an analysis of some of the obstacles that have made it difficult for many states to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in the juvenile justice system.[3]
  • This publication discusses barriers to achieving meaningful and measurable reductions in racial and ethnic disparities, identified by the states themselves.


 Resources for Reform Trends

+ Improving Data Collection

  • Chapter 7 of the Disproportionate Minority Contact Technical Assistance Manual (4th Edition), describes lessons learned from a two-year project in Washoe County, Nevada, and Travis County, Texas designed to develop new and accurate data collection methods for Hispanic youth and to reduce racial and ethnic disparities for Hispanic and other youth at key decision points.
  • This toolkit provides users with a number of guidelines, tips, and tools for reducing racial and ethnic disparities, including data collection information and tools.
  • These guidelines provide in-depth information on collecting and recording racial and ethnic data of youth in the juvenile justice system.
  • This fact sheet describes the data collection reporting templates used by the Models for Change DMC Action Network sites.


+ Enhancing Cultural and Linguistic Competence

  • See this publication for information on cultural adaptations to evidence-based practices.
  • See this toolkit from Models for Change for applying the “Cultural Enhancement Model” to evidence-based practices.
  • To understand federal requirements for state courts in serving Limited English Proficient (LEP) youth and family members, see these guidelines.
  • These Standards for Language Access in Courts from the American Bar Association are an important tool to assist courts and policymakers in creating systems for language access that will make courts more fair and accessible to all.
  • The International Association of Chiefs of Police issued recommendations that its members developed during a two-day national summit on Law Enforcement’s Leadership Role in Juvenile Justice Reform that included increased training for officers on the ways youth differ from adults and from one another depending on their cultural background.

+ Family Engagement

  • Connect with Justice for Families, a national alliance founded and run by parents and families who have experienced the juvenile justice system with their children.
  • See this newsletter for information on a Wisconsin-based family engagement program for youth in the juvenile justice system that teaches youth and families communication skills and behavior management.

For more information on family engagement resources click here.


+ Reducing Disparities with Objective Decision-Making Practices and Tools

+ Increasing Diversion and Community-Based Alternatives

  • See this publication for information on how Pennsylvania has been able to reduce the number of youth in secure detention through the use of more community-based alternatives.
  • Two examples where creating an evening reporting center reduced the use of secure detention for youth of color:  Ventura County, California, and Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.
  • See this article on Rock County, Wisconsin’s success in reducing secure detention for youth of color through increasing community-based alternative options and adopting a system of graduated responses for probation violations.

For more resources for diversion and community-based alternatives click here.


+ Community Collaboration and Engagement

  • The Burns Institute’s Community Justice Network for Youth (CJNY) seeks to promote the availability of effective and culturally-appropriate interventions for youth of color and poor communities. You can follow CJNY on Twitter.
  • For a thorough discussion on how to prepare the local community to undertake a program of reducing racial and ethnic disparities in the juvenile justice system, see Chapter 3 of the Disproportionate Minority Contact Technical Assistance Manual (4th Edition).
  • Specific examples may be found in this publication, which discusses ways to work with the Native Hawaiian community on justice issues, and this article, which describes how Lancaster County, Pennsylvania engaged its faith community to work on decreasing racial and ethnic disproportionality in the juvenile courts.


+ Racial Impact Statements for Juvenile Justice Legislation

  • See this article for information on how racial impact statements can be used by legislatures to address disparities.
  • See this 2013 newspaper article discussing whether more states should require racial impact statements.


+ Reauthorizing and Strengthening the Federal Juvenile Justice Delinquency and Prevention Act (JJDPA)


+ Blocking the “School-to-Prison” Pipeline

+ Reducing Transfer of Youth to Adult Court

+ Addressing the Intersection of Gender and Racial Disparities

For more information on the disproportionate representation and differential treatment of  groups that are often overlooked – such as girls and who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, or questioning (LGBTQ) – see this new blog post by the Status Offense Reform Center and accompanying resources.


[1] National Research Council, Reforming Juvenile Justice: A Developmental Approach (Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press, 2013), 219-221.

[1a] National Juvenile Justice Network, Creating Meaningful Change in the Relationship Between Law Enforcement and Youth of Color, 2017.

[2] Stephen Gies, Marcia Cohen, and Francisco Villarruel, “Intervention,” in DMC Technical Assistance Manual, 4th ed., (Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, July 2009) 4-14, .

[3] See also National Research Council, Reforming Juvenile Justice, 299.

[4] The National Juvenile Justice Network, which authors the content for the Resource Hub, is a member of the NJJDPC.