Addressing Racial and Ethnic Disparities
How CJJR Supports Leaders to Create More Equitable Systems
The Center for Juvenile Justice Reform (CJJR) is committed to assisting leaders within juvenile justice, child welfare and other youth-serving systems to create fair and equitable practices and approaches for all youth. This work is paramount given the research indicating that youth of color are disproportionately represented in the justice system and often face disparate treatment compared to their counterparts. Below is a summary of how CJJR equips, educates and supports leaders to address racial and ethnic disparities in their jurisdictions.
Since 2012, CJJR has conducted an annual Reducing Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Juvenile Justice (RED) Certificate Program in partnership with the Center for Children’s Law and Policy. The program seeks to help jurisdictions reduce overrepresentation of youth of color in the juvenile justice system through a data-driven and research-based approach. By examining the key decision points in the juvenile justice system, the program’s curriculum provides participants a better understanding of the disparate treatment youth of color experience as compared to white youth within the juvenile justice system, and also focuses on the relationship between disproportionality in the juvenile justice system and disparate treatment in other child-serving systems, including child welfare and education.
RED Certificate Program participants continue their commitment to reform through the development and implementation of a grassroots Capstone Project. Examples of current Capstones include:
- Analysis of law enforcement referral data from schools, leading to an MOU between the County Attorney, Police Department, Public Schools and Human Service Department and implementation of a pre-referral diversion program for low level assaults
- Reduction in racial and ethnic disparities in school-based Disorderly Conduct charges through redefined protocols for school staff around law enforcement involvement, implementation of a uniform set of graduated sanctions for in-school behaviors and creation of a community-based diversion program
- Implementation of a diversion program for first-time, simple misdemeanor offenses that includes new law enforcement policy around diversion of eligible youth, training for key partners and front-line staff and development of diversion classes.
RED Capstone: A Success Story
After attending the 2015 RED Certificate Program, the Scott County, IA team focused their Capstone Project on developing a diversion program for first time youth offenders of non-traffic, simple misdemeanor offenses. When analyzing their local data, Scott County team members learned that disparity appears to impact the most youth in the initial entry and referral to juvenile court services. In 2014, Scott County had over 1000 juvenile arrests. Of those arrests, 58% were African American youth, even though only about 12.5% of Scott County’s population is African American. Based on this data, Scott County team developed a new policy that requires all police officers to divert eligible youth, provided training for key partners and front-line staff, and created new diversion classes that aim to help youth understand human behavior, improve communication and decision-making skills, and reinforce pro-social behaviors.
Scott County’s Capstone Project was implemented starting January 2016. Since then, there has been a significant decrease in juvenile court referrals and youth of color who are charged for non-traffic, simple misdemeanor offenses. The data showed a reduced number of youth being formally charged, from 50 youth, of which 82% were black in 2015, to 0 youth charged in 2016. In addition, the team also discovered that rate of recidivism decreased for diverted youth. In 2015, 16% of the diverted youth reoffended, of which 70% were black youth; in 2016, 7% of the diverted youth reoffended, of which 50% were black youth.
Scott County, Iowa RED Certificate Program Team | Class of 2015
- Lori Frick, Service Area Manager, Iowa Department of Human Services
- Latrice Lacey, Executive Director, Davenport Civil Rights Commission
- Molli Nickerson, Coordinator, Scott County Kids
- Shawn Roth, Detective Sergeant, Davenport Police Department
- Robert Scott, Executive Director, Davenport Schools
- Judge Cheryl Traum, District Associate Judge, State of Iowa
- David Tristan, Juvenile Court Officer, Juvenile Court Services
- Julie Walton, Assistant Court Attorney, Scott County Attorney’s Office
Learn more about the Reducing Racial and Ethnic Disparities Certificate Program.
CJJR hosts two peer-support groups bi-annually and annually: the Juvenile Justice Leadership Network (JJLN) and the Public Information Officers Learning Collaborative (PIOLC). Both groups have focused strategically on reducing the disproportionate numbers of youth of color in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems, and youth of color who cross between them. Topics have included effective strategies to reduce Disproportionate Minority Contact, bridging the gap between policy and practice, implicit and explicit bias training, implementing race neutral assessment and structured decision making tools, decision point analysis and responsibility of decision makers, cultural sensitivity and how best to shape internal and external messaging. Each collective is described in more detail below.
The JJLN facilitates the convening of a small group of progressive and innovative public agency juvenile justice probation and correctional leaders at the state and local levels, and results in the formulation of ideas that the leaders implement or fine-tune for use in their reform efforts. The JJLN bolsters the work of top leaders in the juvenile justice field, increasing the probability of their successes, while also potentially contributing to the work of the field as a whole. CJJR hosts the JJLN in partnership with the Council of Juvenile Correctional Administrators and the Public Welfare Foundation.
Learn more about the Juvenile Justice Leadership Network.
CJJR also partners with Casey Family Programs, the Public Welfare Foundation, the Communications Consortium Media Center, Justice Policy Institute, and the Annie E. Casey Foundation to conduct the PIOLC, an annual meeting for juvenile justice and child welfare Public Information Officers (PIOs). The collaborative discusses techniques to deal with crisis situations and ways for PIOs to employ proactive messages about their jurisdiction’s reform efforts, both individually and across systems. As a result, PIOs develop and implement strategies to engage their peers in other child and youth-serving agencies, in order to better communicate about their reform efforts and utilize more consistent and comprehensive strategies in reaching their constituencies.
Learn more about the Public Information Officers Learning Collaborative.
CJJR operates two initiatives designed to advance best practices for serving youth involved in the justice system: the Crossover Youth Practice Model (CYPM) and the Youth in Custody Practice Model (YICPM). Each effort, described more fully below, includes a focus on addressing racial and ethnic disparities through the use of data collection on key decision points and the development of targeted strategies to address identified gaps.
CJJR’s Crossover Youth Practice Model is a research-based initiative that assists jurisdictions to better address the unique needs of “crossover youth”—that is, youth who move between the child welfare and juvenile justice systems or are known to both concurrently. Since 2007, CJJR has worked in 96 counties in 21 states to address the issues faced by this population. With CJJR’s on- and off-site support, sites implementing the CYPM enhance collaboration and communication across agencies and partners to better serve crossover youth. CYPM goals include reductions in the: (1) number of youth placed in out-of-home care; (2) use of congregate care; (3) disproportionate representation of youth of color; and (4) number of youth crossing over and becoming dually-involved.
Learn more about the Crossover Youth Practice Model.
In partnership with the Council of Juvenile Correctional Administrators (CJCA), CJJR also operates the Youth in Custody Practice Model, an initiative that assists state and county juvenile correctional agencies to implement a comprehensive, research-based, and effective service delivery approach for youth in post-disposition custody. Over the course of 18 months, CJJR, CJCA and a team of consultants provide participating jurisdictions with training and technical assistance on essential practices in four key areas: (1) case planning; (2) facility-based services (e.g., education, behavior management, rehabilitative programming); (3) transition/reentry; and (4) community-based services. Launched in 2015, four jurisdictions are currently participating in the inaugural cohort of the program.
Learn more about the Youth in Custody Practice Model.
Presentations and Publications
Presentations and Publications
Addressing racial and ethnic disparities is a theme consistently present in CJJR’s presentations and publications. Below are a few resources CJJR has developed to further inform the field in this area:
As part of an ongoing training series for Crossover Youth Practice Model sites, on October 26, 2016, CJJR hosted “Achieving Racial Equity, A Multi-Systems Focus.” This webinar is designed to help facilitate effective cross-systems dialogue and strategies for achieving racial equity in CYPM jurisdictions. Presenters Lyman Legters, Senior Director at Casey Family Programs, and Shay Bilchik, CJJR Director, provide key definitions, discuss institutional and structural contexts related to racial disparities, present national research on disproportionality through a cross-system lens, and offer strategies and selected resources to help advance the work.
Click image for presentation or download it here.
On April 22, 2015, CJJR hosted a webinar on the Reducing Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Juvenile Justice Certificate Program. The webinar provides an overview of the program, which is co-directed by CJJR and the Center for Children’s Law and Policy (CCLP), and discusses issues that jurisdictions face in the overrepresentation and disparate treatment of youth of color in the juvenile justice system. Presenters include CCLP Executive Director Mark Soler, CCLP Policy Director for Equity and Justice Tiana Davis, and CJJR Senior Research Fellow Jill Adams.
In March 2008, CJJR and the Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago hosted a symposium titled “The Overrepresentation of Children of Color in America’s Juvenile Justice and Child Welfare Systems.” This publication presents the content of that symposium, including a piece written by CJJR Director Shay Bilchik on “Policy Reforms to Address Racial and Ethnic Disparity and Disproportionality in the Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice Systems: Federal, State and Local Action.” The compendium includes articles that establish a common language across child serving systems to describe the various problems associated with this overrepresentation and make recommendations for the future.
Research confirms that there is disproportionate representation of African American children and families in the United States’ child protective services systems such that leads to disproportionately negative outcomes for the families involved. This presentation, delivered by CJJR Director Shay Bilchik at the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative Second Annual Conference in Massachusetts on September 22, 2009, outlines potential reasons behind these disparities and recommends various Child Welfare Practice Responses for dealing with current Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC) with the juvenile justice system.