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Racial and Ethnic Disparities

Racial and Ethnic Disparities (R/ED)

Each State, US Territory, and the District of Columbia that receives Federal Title II Formula Grants is required to establish a State Advisory Group (SAG). This SAG advises the Governor, and where appropriate, other Stakeholders on matters relevant to Juvenile Justice and delinquency prevention.  In Oregon, the YDC is the SAG designated by the Governor to administer Federal Title II Formula Grant funds from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), as well as monitor Oregon’s compliance with the core provisions of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (JJDP) Act of 2002, and most recently – in December 2018 – the Juvenile Justice Reform Act (JJRA) of 2018 that was signed into law, reauthorizing and substantially amending the JJDP Act.

The JJRA of 2018 changed the Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC) requirement to focus on Racial and Ethnic Disparities (R/ED).  It requires that States collect and analyze data on R/ED at the following Decision Points:

  1. Referral
  2. Diversion
  3. Pre-trial detention
  4. Secure Confinement
  5. Transfer to Adult Court

Oregon is dedicated to the equal and fair treatment of every Youth (regardless of membership in a minority or majority population group) who come into contact with the Juvenile Justice System.  In order to achieve compliance with the Title II Formula Grant R/ED requirement, Oregon must “implement policy, practice, and system improvement strategies at the State, territorial, local, and Tribal levels, as applicable, to identify and reduce racial and ethnic disparities among Youth who come into contact with the Juvenile Justice System…” 

The duties of YDD’s R/ED Coordinator is to implement OJJDP’s R/ED Reduction Model and its three-pronged, research-driven, outcomes-based strategy to decrease racial and ethnic disparities with Juveniles: 

  1. Identify the Problem (by collecting and analyzing Statewide data at key Juvenile Justice decision points);
  2. Develop an Action Plan; and
  3. Conduct Outcome-Based Evaluation.


These terms are often poorly understood or misused by well-intentioned people.  Below is the guidance provided by OJJDP:  

Race and ethnicity are terms often used together (e.g., racial and ethnic disparities). 

Race tends to be associated with biology, whereas ethnicity is associated with culture. OJJDP requires that states participating in the federal Formula Grant Program report racial and ethnic juvenile justice data using the following categories: White (Non-Hispanic), Black or African American (Non-Hispanic), American Indian/Native American, Hispanic or Latino, and Asian (Non-Hispanic).

OJJDP defines minority as youth who are Black or African American, American Indian/Native American, Hispanic or Latino, Alaska Native, Asian, or Native Hawaiian/other Pacific Islander. Other commonly used terms are non-white and youth of color.

Discrimination denotes between-group differences in outcomes based on the consideration of extralegal or illegitimate factors. In other words, the terms discrimination and bias are used when the racial disparities appear to be caused by some intent on the part of the decision-maker (e.g., those who may be “racist” or who favor one racial or ethnic group over another), or when a system’s design puts minority youth at a disadvantage. Both individual and system bias can be intentional but are often unintentional or implicit.

The Problem We are Trying to Solve

Data shows that Youth of Color are disproportionally overrepresented in Oregon’s Juvenile Justice System at each decision point for which OJJDP requests data collection and analysis: Referral to the Juvenile Justice System by Law Enforcement Agencies and/or other entities; Pre-Trial Detention; placement in Secure Confinement at Oregon Youth Authority (OYA) Facilities (resulting in the increased likelihood of these Youth becoming homeless, unemployed and imprisoned); and Transfer to Adult Court.  More specifically, African American and Native American Youth experience this disproportionality to the greatest extent.  

Unfortunately, trends analyzed in data from the Juvenile Justice Information System (JJIS) indicate that between 2017 and 2019 these disproportionalities greatly increased.  According to 2019 Statewide JJIS Data, although African American Youth make-up approximately 3.58% of the population of Youth ages 10-17, they are referred at a rate of 7.33% for criminal cases; this is a considerable increase from 5.37% in 2017.  Accordingly, although Native American Youth make-up approximately 1.49% of the population of Youth ages 10-17, they were referred at a rate of 5.16% for criminal cases; this increased from 4.99% in 2017.  To put this in context, in 2019 White Youth represented 66.88% of the population ages 10-17, with a 2.17% referral rate for criminal cases; this decreased from 2.65% in 2017.

To state it plainly, in 2019 African American Youth were over three times more likely than White Youth to be referred, while Native American Youth were over two times more likely than White Youth to be referred. Additionally, both African American and Native American Youth were over four times more likely than White Youth to be placed in Secure Confinement, and African American Youth were over six times more likely than White Youth to be transferred to Adult Court.

The rate of secure confinement in 2019 nearly doubled for African American/Black Youth and increased at an alarming rate for American Indian/Native American Youth when compared to 2017 data.  

For more information about Juvenile Racial and Ethnic Disparities contact Sonji Moore at