disproportionate minority contact | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Introduction / Policing

Disproportionate minority contact refers to the disproportionate number of minority youth that come into contact with the juvenile justice system, as well as the disproportionate number of minorities that come into contact with police.

Disproportionate minority contact (DMC) is a persistent and long-standing issue in the United States juvenile justice system. It is a term used to describe the overrepresentation of youth from minority backgrounds who come into contact with the juvenile justice system. DMC is a complex issue that is influenced by a range of social, economic, and cultural factors.

According to research, minority youth, particularly Black and Hispanic youth, are more likely to be arrested, detained, and incarcerated than their White counterparts, despite similar rates of offending. There are many reasons why minority youth are more likely to come into contact with the juvenile justice system, including discriminatory policing practices, systemic racism, implicit biases, poverty, and lack of access to resources and opportunities.

Disproportionate minority contact can occur at all stages of the juvenile justice system, from arrest to sentencing. Minority youth are more likely to be arrested for minor offenses, such as disorderly conduct and drug possession, and are more likely to be detained in secure detention facilities while awaiting trial. They are also more likely to be transferred to adult court and to receive harsher sentences than White youth for similar offenses.

The issue of DMC has been widely recognized by policymakers and juvenile justice practitioners, and efforts to address the issue have been ongoing for several decades. The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974 requires states to collect and report data on DMC and to develop plans to reduce the overrepresentation of minority youth in the juvenile justice system.

In addition, several initiatives and programs have been implemented to address DMC, including community-based diversion programs, cultural competency training for law enforcement, and mentoring programs for at-risk youth. These initiatives aim to reduce the number of minority youth who come into contact with the juvenile justice system and to ensure that those who do are treated fairly and equitably.

However, despite these efforts, the problem of DMC persists. The causes of DMC are complex and deeply ingrained in our society and justice system. Addressing DMC requires a multifaceted approach that includes addressing systemic racism, discriminatory policing practices, and socio-economic disparities.

In conclusion, disproportionate minority contact is a significant and ongoing issue in the juvenile justice system. It reflects the broader societal issues of systemic racism, implicit biases, and socio-economic disparities. Addressing DMC requires a comprehensive and long-term approach that involves a range of stakeholders, including policymakers, law enforcement, community organizations, and families. By working together, we can reduce DMC and ensure that all youth are treated fairly and equitably in the juvenile justice system.

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Last Modified: 04/08/2023


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