Reducing Disproportionate
    Minority Contact
    in the Juvenile Justice System

 

 

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Who Should Attend

Disproportionate minority contact of youth in confinement is often a product of decisions at early points in the juvenile justice system. Decisions to make the initial arrest, to hold a youth in detention pending investigation, to refer a case to juvenile court, to petition a case, and to establish a sanction can all contribute to disproportionate minority contact.

Moreover, causes of disproportionate minority contact in the juvenile institutions do not rest with the juvenile justice system but include socioeconomic factors, the educational system, and the family setting. The complexity of the problem necessitates the engagement of many stakeholders in a broad-based effort to address the issues.

Attorneys || Judges || Juvenile Corrections || Adult Corrections || Educators
Law Enforcement || Local Juvenile Departments
Boards, Commissions, and Local Public Safety Coordinating Councils
Advocacy Organizations || Tribal Governments || Faith Community || Community Members || Social Services || Business || Parents and Families
 Child Welfare || Mental and Behavioral Health || Youth

 

Attorneys
Act as advocates and representatives of people in legal matters, i.e., provide legal counsel to those who seek those services. Disproportionate minority contact is caused in part by disparate charging practices among youth of certain races and ethnicities. Prosecutors have some discretion in charging decision and may benefit from discussion on how particular decisions affect minority youth.

Judges
As members of the Oregon Judicial Department, a separate and independent branch of government, judges strive to provide fair and accessible justice services that protect the rights of individuals, preserve community welfare and inspire public confidence. Judges decide at the preliminary hearing whether to keep a youth in detention or to release the youth. If charges are sustained, a judge will decide at an adjudicatory hearing whether the youth committed the alleged act. If the judge imposes disposition, several options are available.

Juvenile Corrections
Juvenile Corrections Officers seek to protect the public by holding youth offenders accountable and providing opportunities for reformation.

Adult Corrections
The Oregon Department of Corrections promotes public safety by holding offenders accountable for their actions and reducing the risk of future criminal behavior. Youth may receive sentences that include incarceration in a Department of Corrections facility upon reaching the age of 25. Minority youth are more likely than non-minorities to be tried as adults.

Educators
Studies show a strong link between high school dropouts and involvement in the juvenile justice system. We will continue to work on this issue and facilitate collaboration among educators and others who work with Oregon's youth to reduce the minority dropout rate and disproportionate minority contact in the juvenile justice system.

Law Enforcement
Law enforcement seeks to maintain and improve community livability by working in partnership with the community to identify the root causes of crime, disorder, and fear of crime. The relationships between law enforcement and minority youth, including mutual perceptions and treatment, is a factor in the over-representation of minority youth in the juvenile justice system.

Local Juvenile Departments
The Oregon Juvenile Department Directors' Association envisions a juvenile justice system that provides community protection, reduces juvenile crime, holds youth accountable, and honors the diversity of the people, culture, and communities of the state. The Summit provides a forum to discuss the unique needs, concerns, and experiences of minority youth in Oregon.

Boards, Commissions, and Local Public Safety Coordinating Councils
As components of a funding stream distribution point, Oregon boards and commissions can provide policy and planning, technical assistance, data collections and analysis to ensure that state policies, programs, and services address the needs of at-risk minority youth. By examining the data and practices at each decision point in the justice system, these stakeholders can identify and seek to eliminate barriers to service and promote programs that employ evidence-based best practices.

Advocacy Organizations
These organizations advocate for the development and delivery of services tailored to the unique needs of the people they represent. The Summit brings together the people who advocate change and those who have the authority to make changes.

Tribal Governments
Indian tribes represent unique legal entities in the United States and are distinct political communities with extensive powers of self-government. Oregon's Legislative Commission on Indian Services (CIS) works with the State of Oregon to strengthen ties between tribes and state and to improve services to Indians both inside and outside of reservations. Representatives of tribal governments will find a receptive audience at the Summit among many other justice system stakeholders committed to ensuring fair and high-quality services to Native Americans.

Faith Community
Oregon's faith-based organizations provide services to their members and others who may request them. They offer after-school programs, counseling, and spiritual support to minority youth, providing an important preventative and restorative alternative to the juvenile justice system.

Community Members
Community members may be affected by minority youth over-representation on a daily basis. The Summit brings together those who can share their experiences and provide faces to the diversity among Oregon's different communities.

Social Services
Social services include a myriad of human services that address the full range of client and community needs, such as helping young people make positive choices and avoid behaviors that put them at risk.  Youth programs and services that exclude families or fail to address their needs can result in high failure rates for program participants. Ensuring that barriers to family involvement in both judicial proceedings and probationary programs are eliminated can have a positive impact on reducing disproportionate minority contact (DMC) and over-representation.

Businesses
Corporations and businesses can have an impact on reducing minority over-representation by providing mentoring, work/employment, and internship opportunities to youth at risk who are going back to their communities. For example, recreation and after school educational enrichment opportunities developed and offered not only by business, but also by social service agencies, not for profit entities, and faith based organizations

Parents and Families
The importance of parent-child relationships strengthens the capacity of families to make crucial contributions to their children's welfare. It is of the utmost importance for parents to address the effective and enduring strategy of improving parenting practices to prevent juvenile delinquency. Programs and services may exclude families or may not address their needs, thus resulting in high failure rates. Ensuring that barriers to family involvement and court or program access are eliminated can have a positive impact on reducing DMC.

Child Welfare

Research has confirmed that disproportionality of minority youth extends to the child welfare system.  Studies have informed us that children and youth in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems are often the same young people -- just seen at a different point in time.  The Summit can provide an opportunity for those working in the child welfare and juvenile justice system to work together on this critical issue.

Mental and Behavioral Health

Access to community based mental and behavioral health services to address needs as early as possible are critical to keeping children in school and out of the juvenile justice system.  Extensive research shows that many disciplinary and behavioral problems result from unmet academic and health care needs.

Youth

It is important to have youth involvement and engagement in policies and services that might impact themselves and other young people.  Young people with the support of adult allies have informed state and national policies on education, health, juvenile justice systems, and more.  Youth have an opportunity at the Summit to discuss issues related to disproportionate minority youth in the juvenile justice system and provide their ideas and recommendations to decision makers and others attending the Summit.

"None of us can fail to recognize either the problem we are here to address, or the threat it poses to our future.  We can all agree that when any child becomes involved in criminal activity, that is one child too many.  We can also agree that the disproportionate number of minority youth who drift -- or who are driven -- into lives of crime reflects an unfortunate and unacceptable racial imbalance that we can no longer afford to tolerate.  As long as young people of color are over-represented among our children at risk; as long as they disproportionately fail in school; as long as they are disproportionately present at every stage of the juvenile justice process -- from arrest through incarceration -- then we have not come far enough."

(Click for full speech from the 2008 Governor's Summit on Reducing Disproportionate Minority Contact in the Juvenile Justice System.)

John A. Kitzhaber, M.D.    November 18, 2008