ST. PAUL — Youth-of-color are disparately represented at all stages of justice-system processing in Minnesota, according to a report from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Justice Programs (OJP). The OJP report compares rates of involvement of youth-of-color at key stages of Minnesota’s juvenile justice system to those of white youth.
In a phenomenon known as Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC), youth-of-color tend to be overrepresented nationally at justice-system decision points focused on accountability, including arrest, secure detention, petition-to-court and transfer to adult court. Conversely, youth of color are underrepresented at diversion from charges and community-based probation.
Specific report findings include:
- Youth of color in Minnesota are more than three times more likely to be arrested for a delinquency offense than white youth.
- Youth of color in Minnesota are more than one-and-a-half times more likely to be securely detained than white youth.
- Youth of color in Minnesota are less likely than white youth to receive a diversion opportunity and are more likely to be charged in juvenile court.
- In Minnesota, youth of color are less likely than white youth to receive probation.
- Youth of color are highly overrepresented among the population certified to stand trial as adults in Minnesota.
The research examines racial disparities among non-white populations and shows that Black or African American youth in Minnesota typically represent the most severe rates of disparity at select justice system decision points, including arrest and adult certification, while American Indian youth generally have disparate rates of contact across all stages of the juvenile justice system.
The causes of racial disparities in the juvenile justice system are complex. Factors contributing to disparities can include different offending patterns by unique populations of youth, inequitable access to prevention and treatment services, justice system decision-making criteria or policies that unintentionally disadvantage youth of color, and the effects of other social conditions such as poverty.
The report highlights key DMC-reduction strategies including diversion programs, alternatives to secure detention, culturally appropriate services and staffing, community involvement, changes to legislation and justice-agency policies, and structured decision-making criteria to potentially reduce bias by system practitioners.
“While additional investigation into the underlying causes of disparities in Minnesota are needed, juvenile justice agencies can explore the policies, procedures and practices that are within their control to limit the effect of the system itself upon racial disparities,” says Jeri Boisvert, director of the Office of Justice Programs. “Reducing DMC in the juvenile justice system is a federal priority because of the long-term consequences of system involvement for youth.”
The full report includes comparisons to national disparity statistics and those of similarly situated states, as well as trends in Minnesota’s disparity data over the past five years. The report concludes with a summary of Minnesota’s past DMC reduction efforts and recommendations to strengthening Minnesota’s response to a trend of disparate outcomes for youth of color.