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Disproportionate Minority Contact in the Juvenile Justice System: A Study of Differential Minority Arrest/Referral to Court in Three Cities

NCJ Number
Date Published
July 2007
52 pages
Using information from three community studies of delinquency (Pittsburg, Rochester, and Seattle), this federally supported report examines disproportionate minority contact (DMC) and factors that might affect DMC at the police contact/court referral level.
Based on the findings, three main conclusions were warranted. First, there was clear evidence of disproportionate minority contact (DMC). At all three sites it was found that a greater proportion of minorities were police contacted/court referred. Second, DMC could not be explained by differences in the offending behavior of different racial groups. This finding was held true for a measure of total offending and for violent and property offenses as well. Third, DMC was substantially reduced by considering the combined effect of a number of additional risk factors for arrest. It appears that multiple risk factors do a better job of explaining DMC than does delinquent behavior. The weight of the evidence suggests that the effect of race/ethnicity on the chance of being contacted/referred are reduced but remains significant when both offending and risk are controlled. The findings suggest some further directions for research to more fully understand DMC at the initial contact/arrest/referral stage. For the past 50 years, researchers have been studying the degree to which race affects juvenile justice decisionmaking. More than one explanation has been given for DMC. Some argue that DMC is the result of racial bias within the juvenile justice system. Others argue that DMC is the result of minority youth committing more crimes, more serious crimes, or types of offenses that are more likely to come to the attention of the police. Still others argue that DMC is, in part, produced by risk factors for delinquency. Tables, references
Date Published: July 1, 2007