Reducing Disproportionate
    Minority Contact
    in the Juvenile Justice System




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Minority Over-representation



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Solutions: Disproportionate Minority Contact - What's Working?

Oregon is nationally recognized as a leader in the effort to address disproportionate minority contact (DMC) in the juvenile justice system because of its’ long-standing commitment to rethink and ultimately improve the juvenile justice system. Since 1988, the former Oregon Commission on Children and Families (and the newly formed Youth Development Council) have been studying the problem of disproportionate over-representation of minority youth in secure facilities and developing strategies to address the problem.  Oregon implemented local DMC six projects to address issues related to overrepresentation of minority youth in the juvenile justice system.  Oregon Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee (JJAC) supported these efforts through funding from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP).


The following are examples of DMC reductions in local communities in Oregon that were administered or coordinated by the Juvenile Departments or local Commission on Children and Families.







Clackamas County Assessment of Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC) over the last five years has shown that minority youth experience differential treatment at several crucial contact points in the systems.  Black/American American youth are arrested at a significant higher rate than White youth; and they are referred to the Juvenile Court at a higher rate.  Hispanic/Latino youth are less likely to be referred to local diversion program. Black/African American and Hispanic/Latino cases are more likely to be involved in secured detention. Both population cases are more likely to result in delinquent findings.  Hispanic/Latino youth cases are more likely to result in secure confinement in the juvenile correctional facilities.  An in-depth examination of data in 2007 regarding minority referrals to the Juvenile Department reveals: African American and Hispanic/Latino exhibited a significant increase in delinquent behavior at age 13.  The Juvenile Crime Prevention (JCP)) risk assessment tool indicates that school, peer relationships, family functioning, and behavioral issues are the high risk factor domains in both populations.  The JCP risk assessment also indicated that 27% of African American youth have no protective factors.




In order to fully understand community concerns around the issue of DMC, information was also gathered from key leaders and community partners. Together with the statistical data, this information resulted in a multi-faceted approach to address DMC in Clackamas County.  To mitigate key criminogenic behaviors exhibited by youth at age 13, prevention and intervention strategies was implemented at a middle school in an area from which a significant number of minority youth are referred to CCJD.  Technical assistance and cultural competency training strategies improved decision-making at all levels of the juvenile justice system, particularly at crucial contact points identified during DMC analysis of Clackamas County system change strategies will reduce procedural and policy factors contributing to DMC. 


Clackamas County intervention project centered on five different DMC reduction efforts: 1) mentoring program (Big Brothers, Big Sisters Columbia); 2) recreational program (Todos Juntos) that created preventive and positive services to increase protective factors; (Our model was built on fostering collaborative relationships between community providers and fully integrating services with our targeted school and communities.) 3) creation of two Bilingual/Bicultural Division Panels as a mechanism to increase access to diversion resources for Hispanic/Latino youth. 4) the Juvenile Department reexamined its Detention decision making process.; and 5) community training organized through the local Children, Youth and Family Division.




The Mentoring and Recreational Program served 122 youth and 118 tracked during the past year; and only 1.7% youth had a delinquent offense.  Youth who were tracked after a 6 month period of exited the program experience 0% recidivism. The mentoring program for Black/African American youth had good results with youth who were matched with mentors.


An important aspect of the bi-lingual/bi-cultural panel’s effort was creating panels whose members were culturally appropriate with recruitment and training being an important emphasis. To this end, Spanish speaking Bilingual/Bi-Cultural Diversion Panels were implemented in two cities in the county.  This has had a tremendous impact in facilitating the process for Spanish-speaking families and ensuring they receive the appropriate services. Latino youth whose offense and history make them eligible for diversion services are being diverted to culturally appropriate service that have enhanced their connection to the community.


The reexamination of the Juvenile Department detention decision making process has resulted in a process that requires a clear written detention decision justification for each youth that conforms to the ORS statues.


The Clackamas Children, Youth and Family Division provided or coordinated training in the areas of Cultural Competency; Introduction of DMC in Juvenile System to County agencies, Law Enforcement Administrators with the goal of providing more formal training to Law Enforcement personnel throughout the county; DMC Training: Needs of Hispanic/Latino youth and Immigration issues; Cultural Diversity/DMC Training to school district administrative staff.

     Key Observations


When the DMC reduction strategy is specific and the solution is specifically defined, the chance of success is enhanced.


The data consistently supports the focus on building protective factors in our target age groups which can have an impact on preventing these youth from entering the juvenile system in the first place.


Establishing the goal of sustainability and finding the right community partners, increase the chances that DMC reduction efforts will find the means to sustain themselves even after initial funding has concluded.


In Clackamas County, the Latino panels were integrated into the established City Diversion Panels with a community provider assuming the contract at both of the existing city sites assuring the continuity and the sustainability of this service. This transition will continued to provide a bi-lingual, bi-cultural coordinator to accommodate the populations. The other two community providers for the Mentoring Program will continue providing mentoring services; and the recreational program service provider has secured funding from United Way to continue to provide recreational services at the middle school.


Clackamas County has a practice in place where the yearly DMC reports/Relative Rate Index (RRI) will be reviewed by the Juvenile Department’s Strategic Planning Committee. The committee reviews, plans and implement various policy initiatives and evidence based practices. This is a natural fit for ongoing review of our status. Additionally, DMC reports are conducted and discussed with the Local Public Safety Coordinating Council.


Contact: Clackamas County Juvenile Department, 503-655-3842, Ext. 317





Lane County Youth Services (YS) is in its second year of DMC implementation having worked with community partners to identify internal systems changes as the appropriate starting point for these efforts.   We implemented a detention screening tool and developed and implemented a program services matrix to standardize decision making and reduce bias and are funding a new alternative to detention, short term shelter care for youth who are detained only because they cannot return home.  In this second implementation year we are also expanding efforts to our community partners through law enforcement training and community roundtable discussions of the data and our responses.


Data supporting the approach:  The RRIs examined in Year 1 showed statistically significant results in overrepresentation on African American youth in referrals, detention, Petitions and Secure Confinement; underrepresentation of Hispanic youth at referrals and overrepresentation of American Indian youth in detention.

In examining the possible mechanisms leading to this disproportionality, differential processing or inappropriate decision-making criteria seemed a likely area for introducing bias as YS has no objective detention admission screening instrument.


Additionally, there were few alternatives to detention for youth who cannot safely return home which may have an indirect effect on DMC. Evaluation of existing programs will help establish ethnically neutral criteria for the development of these programs. The data also suggest an accumulated disadvantage for minority youth in differential handling as the department also has no objective matrix for program services. Finally, the qualitative data from community interviews and participants in a DMC sponsored Problem Solvers Meeting indicated broad misunderstanding of the mission, role and options available to DYS when working with youth.

Strategies:  We researched detention screening tools and adopted Multnomah County’s RAI.  We were successful in re-directing funding to develop a short term foster care program as an alternative to detention.  Juvenile Counselors developed a Program Services Matrix, addressing what are appropriate responses to a youth, based on their risk level and the severity of the current offense.  Department policies were re-written to address use of the RAI and the PSM.  We are actively involved in program evaluations to determine which programs are effective with all youth and specifically with which minority youth.  We hired a consultant who provided a research study on the effectiveness of tribal practices in increasing protective factors in urban detained youth.


Community partners/steering committee:  Community partners participate on our DMC Steering Committee which meets quarterly to review progress and advise the effort.  These partners include our juvenile judge, district attorney office, DHS, CCF/YDC, our local treatment providers, school districts, police force, research institutions and community members.  These partners sent line staff to a Problem Solvers meeting to help YS set program priorities. 


Youth Served and Other Results:  Youth Services expanded its use of the program services matrix from a pilot group of 50 youth to the full 280 youth on informal and formal supervision.  The RAI is being administered to all youth brought to detention.  We expect to have a shelter program as an alternative to detention in place during 2Q.  The research review on Native American cultural practices increasing protective factors in urban Native youth is being shared at the state level.  We have established a protocol for program evaluation and have conducted both process and outcome studies.


Sustainability:  Because our focus has been on systems change, DMC efforts have penetrated practices to become policy and Standard Operating Procedures in dealing with youth.  Our leadership team will continue to monitor usage of the new tools and progress is reducing DMC in Lane County.


Contact: Lane County Department of Youth Services, 541-682-4705




Referral rates for both white and Hispanic youth in Malheur County declined from the levels of 2003-2004.  White rates continued to decline in 2010, but Hispanic referral rates showed an increase.  The interpretation of the DMC data led us to the conclusion that the highlighted decision point needs further examination, specifically referral for Hispanic youth. In response to the assessment, the Malheur County DMC Project focused on direct services to high-risk and low-protective factors in Hispanic youth according to JCP Screens. Services occurred through positive caring adult role models utilizing proven practices at the Harvest House Missions’ SEASON Youth Program and the Boys & Girls Club of the Western Treasure Valley.


Malheur Local Public Safety Coordinating Council (LPSCC) supports the direct service component. Relationships have been developed and fostered with the court system, Juvenile Department, law enforcement, Department of Human Services, and schools.

Harvest House Missions SEASON Youth Program and the Boys & Girls Club of the Western Treasure Valley target services for the purpose of prevention and early intervention. These strategies are based upon our DMC assessment findings and the experience of our first two years in this project. Boys & Girls Club now serves youth who have a family history of gang involvement with the evidence based program, “Gang Prevention through Targeted Outreach.” SEASON Youth Program is focusing services for kids who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, runaways, and youth in transition, foster youth and case management. Both agencies have improved relationships with law enforcement and schools. Juvenile Department and court is utilizing strategies learned through the DMC process. Partners collaborate in a manner that these services have the best opportunity to be sustainable. Partners include Circuit Court and Justice Court, Juvenile Department, law enforcement, Department of Human Services, Boys & Girls Club, SEASON Youth Program, and schools.


The interpretation of the DMC data led us to the conclusion that the highlighted decision point needs further examination, specifically referral for Hispanic youth. Juvenile Department now uses a Supervision Matrix to manage referrals that come through the juvenile system that is based on needs assessments. This Matrix was a result of our DMC project and refined by a committee consisting of law enforcement, circuit court judge, district attorney and the Juvenile Department. Decisions are based on information that was uncovered through an intense intake process that used information provided by the family, the youth, school, treatment programs and Department of Human Services.

Contact: Malheur County Commission on Children and Families, 541-889-4317



Marion County, Oregon

Implementation of the Crossover Youth Practice Model in Marion County


Multnomah County, Oregon




Reducing minority over-representation has long been a top priority in Multnomah County that the Department of Community Justice (DCJ), Juvenile Services Division.  DCJ regularly uses Relative Rate Index (RRI) data available to monitor the impact on racial disparities of every key decision point for youth within the juvenile justice system.  Our findings from years of analyses show that system referrals and detention admissions contribute the most to minority over-representation and racial disparities in the juvenile justice system.


Tremendous effort has been made in reducing racial and ethnic differences at these key turning points.   This includes the use of a standardized assessment tool to direct detention decisions when youth are brought to detention by police; contracting with local service providers for culturally-specific programming, and the provision of shelter care for youth who cannot be at home for temporary periods of time.  DCJ also received support through the Oregon Commission of Children and Families to develop a culturally-specific mentoring program, At-Promise Mentor Program, to reduce disproportionate minority contact of African American young men.




The At-Promise Mentor Program provides culturally specific mentoring services to high risk, gang affiliated/involved African American young men who have historically been unable to access and remain engaged in community program. The program helps youth develop academic and social skills within the structure and supervision of a caring professional adult who will serve as a mentor. These adults are volunteers who currently live and work in the community in which these young men live.  About 60 high-risk youth have participated in the program since February 2010. To help sustain this program, DCJ will be transitioning the management of the program in 2013 to a local community provider who will continue to help match African American youth with supportive adult mentors.




DMC is a complex issue that requires ongoing cooperation between public safety agencies, community providers, and the community leaders who compose the Multnomah County Juvenile Justice Council.  Working together on multiple fronts, Multnomah County is starting to see some positive results from our efforts.  Multnomah County 2011 crime referral and recidivism data indicate that, after many years of steady increase in RRI at the point of youth referral, the RRI for African American youth receiving a criminal referral finally dropped in 2011. The 12-months recidivism rate for African American youth referred to the County Juvenile Services Division has declined, as well as the percentage of chronic offenders among African America youth.


Contact: Multnomah County Department of Community Justice, Juvenile Services Division, 503-988-4171







The initial phase of the project was dedicated to a review of referral data, trends, Department practices and community impressions. A Program Specialist was hired to complete this work and she completed a Youth Profiles Report July 2008-June 2009. A key finding included a significant increase in referrals by age 12 for Hispanic youth. This is consistent with previous findings of the Juvenile Department and increased prevention efforts with gang affected youth. In 2008, the Department started Sky’s the Limit, a mentoring program designed to prevent high risk/ gang affected middle school youth from moving deeper into the gang culture. DMC staff and funds were used to expand Sky’s the Limit into the Tigard-Tualatin School District. Unfortunately, due to continued state funding reductions Sky’s the Limit ended in July 2011.


The assessment and diagnosis phase also demonstrated the need for changes within the Juvenile Department. Some key internal changes that were initiated and completed include: re-training on the JCP Risk Assessment Screen and Department policy on use of the tool; development of criteria and a screening tool to determine when a youth should be admitted into secure detention, development of a DMC Subcommittee and increased community education efforts about the Juvenile Department and services provided to youth and families.




The Juvenile Department enhanced and created many partnerships within the community during the grant period. Those partnerships include: the Juvenile Crime Prevention Advisory Committee (which includes membership from several local schools, mental health agencies and the local Commission on Children and Families), the Public Safety Coordinating Council, the Juvenile Court, local practitioners and non-profit agencies serving minority youth, which includes Centro Cultural, Copa Multicultural and CREATE. After making the challenging decision to end the Sky’s the Limit program, the department initiated a partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters so that youth historically served by our program could have an avenue to connect with a mentor.


This effort, in conjunction with the Safe Schools/ Healthy Students initiative, eventually led to a larger partnership within the Tigard-Tualatin School District in which faith based organizations were brought together to identify mentors for high risk youth in their area.




Throughout the grant period 43 youth were served within the Sky’s the Limit Program; 16 youth were served within the Summer Transitional Advocacy Program; and 72 eligible youth were served in the Comprehensive Supervision Unit (CSU) between July 1, 2011 and June 30, 2012. Long term recidivism rates remained relatively low for this high risk group of youth. Sky’s the Limit youth recidivated at a rate of 14%. Of the 26 CSU youth who successfully exited the program in June 2011 through December 2011, only 1 received a delinquency referral between April 2012 and June 2012. Relative Rate Index (RRI) information is less encouraging, especially with respect to Hispanic youth. While the RRI for cases referred to the Juvenile Department decreased from 2010 to 2011 (1.63 to 1.42, respectively), the RRI for cases petitioned to court, youth in secure detention and youth confined to a youth correctional facility increased. This may be attributed to increased attention and swifter consequences for gang affected youth within CSU.


The Juvenile Department continues to prioritize fair and equal treatment for all youth in Washington County. The established DMC subcommittee will continue work to internally address department practices that may impact DMC, in addition to educating parents and the community about our role in serving youth and families. The recently updated Strategic Plan includes a continued focus on DMC issues. To demonstrate these efforts the Department created a Juvenile Counselor I position on the CSU team, continues to recruit bi-lingual staff and has recently initiated efforts to establish a bi-lingual Senior Juvenile Counselor position. Connections with community partners remain strong and discussion of DMC issues regularly takes place, especially within the Juvenile Crime Prevention Advisory Committee.


Contact: Washington County Juvenile Department, 503-846-8655



National Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC) Reduction Strategies

Nationally, states have continued to work on specific DMC reduction strategies that include policies, practices, prevention, intervention, and after care programming to reduce the racial/ethnic disparities within the juvenile justice system. 


The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency and Prevention (OJJDP) has established resources to assist states in addressing DMC related issues (Model Program Guide, DMC Virtual Resource Center; Training go to for more information.


The Juvenile Justice Network Advances in Juvenile Justice Reform 2009-2011 Report - Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC) -2009; pages 17-21