What is R.E.D?

Racial and ethnic disparity refers to unequal treatment of youth of color in the juvenile justice system. RED results in disparate outcomes for similarly situated youth. Disparity exists in many child-serving systems; we focus on the juvenile justice system because of its negative impact on entire communities.

This phenomenon may also be referred to as disproportionate minority contact or DMC. However, the term DMC, is no longer accurate. People of color are no longer minorities in many places in the U.S. Further, it is possible to have proportionate numbers of youth of color in both the general and detention populations, but still have disparity in decision making.

Where does it occur?

According to a survey conducted by the Office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention evidence of racial and ethnic disparities (RED) exists in 31 of the 36 states surveyed. We know from working directly with sites over the last 10 years that it exists even in the places where the evidence is not blatantly apparent.
We work to ensure equal treatment of similarly situated youth; not their equal representation in detention.

Why does it happen?

There are many reasons for RED but to name a few, poor decision-making, policies that appear race neutral and the perception that community-based alternatives to detention do not exist, all result in RED.

Who does it affect?

Each jurisdiction chooses which target population to focus on, but looking at the issue nationally Black, Latino, Native American and Southeast Asian youth are most likely to be overrepresented in detention.

When will it stop?

There is currently a nationwide movement to end racial and ethnic disparity. Multiple reform efforts are taking place in local government agencies and concerned communities. Many of theses efforts have significantly reduced juvenile justice system involvement for youth; finding suitable placement elsewhere.

Racial and ethnic disparity will stop when system stakeholders responsibly collect data, use standardized tools to guide their decision-making and regularly analyze the data they collect to assess the performance of their efforts. System stakeholders at all levels must be accountable to that data.

What can you do about it?

Contact your state DMC coordinator or juvenile justice specialist and express your commitment to address DMC in your county. Find contact information for your state on our state data map.

Retrain your staff. The Burns Institute offers innovative trainings for traditional and non-traditional stakeholders to increase understanding of disparities in their juvenile justice system. A key component being the introduction and utilization of tools that provide all staff with information essential to reducing racial and ethnic disparities.

Get evaluated by RED experts.Readiness Assessment Consultation (RAC) thoroughly evaluates a jurisdiction’s will and capacity to effectively address disparity in your county. Based on the findings of the individualized RAC report the Burns Institute will provide the jurisdiction a set of recommendations to reduce disparities.

Reference the DMC Practice Guide. We literally wrote the book on our process. It is being edited and will debut soon, in the meantime checkout this database of resources provided by the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s JDAI Help Desk.

Let us help you. We love tackling disparity. When you’re ready let us engage your system in our intensive site engagement process. It’s a two to three year consultation that uses a data-driven process to strategically reduce disparity in your jurisdiction. We’ve done it in 90 jurisdictions to date and have contributed to the success of many, for whom detention is now the last resort.