Disproportionate Minority Contact

Overview of Disproportionate Minority Contact

Disproportionate minority contact refers to the disproportionate number of minority youth who come into contact with the juvenile justice system. As a participant in the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (JJDP) Act, Colorado receives JJDP grant funds annually, dependent on compliance with the core protections of the JJDP Act. One of the four core protections is the requirement that states address disproportionate minority contact. 

In an effort to better understand and address the problem, states have been mandated to identify stages of processing where disproportionate minority contact exists, to assess the factors contributing to disproportionate minority contact at those decision points, and to develop interventions that reduce disproportionate minority contact. Each state and community must engage in its own efforts to identify the specific mechanisms that are contributing to disproportionate minority contact; not all the factors will be relevant for every community. In Colorado, the Division of Criminal Justice (DCJ) monitors disproportionate minority contact at key juvenile processing stages, including arrest, pre-adjudicated detention, filing, adjudication, and sentencing, including the use of probation and commitment to the Division of Youth Corrections using a Relative Rate Index. This index is a metric used to detect disproportionate minority contact by comparing the rates of contact experienced among minority youth to that of white youth; rates greater than 1 indicate disproportionate contact at that decision point. Rates less than 1 indicate under-representation of minority youth, which should be looked at when looking at diversionary type programs that aim to divert youth from entering or further penetrating the juvenile justice system.

The Colorado JJDP Council has a long-standing committee, the Coalition for Minority Youth Equality, that aims to address disproportionate minority contact. The committee includes members of the JJDP Council, other juvenile justice system agencies, and local governmental and not-for-profit agencies. Input and assistance from the committe helps the Division of Criminal Justice address disproportionate minority contact and remain in compliance with the JJDP Act. 

Tools for Agencies to Understand and Address Disproportionate Minority Contact

In an effort to help jurisdictions examine their disproportionate minority contact data, DCJ's Office of Research and Statistics has developed and interactive, online tool examining Colorado minority over-representation by Judicial District. The tool shows arrest, detention and commitment data for each judicial district across a five-year period as analyzed by race.  We started with these three data points because this is the most reliable data the state has in regards to disproportionate minority contact. While we recognize that these three data points may have some flaws, we believe these points have the best data integrity and quality of all the decision points in the juvenile justice system and will allow jurisdictions to begin reviewing their local disproportionate minority contact data.

The data in the tool shows whether disproportionate minority contact exists, at which decision points and to what extent (magnitude), but it does not answer the question as to why disproportionate minority contact exists. To help you get started in your quest to answer why disproportionate minority contact may exist within your district, we recommend using this guide: Asking Deeper Questions about Racial and Ethnic Disparities: What Data Should You Examine and What Questions Should You Be Asking.This document helps communities examine the factors that may be leading to disproportionate minority contact at each particular decision point, one at a time.  

To attend a Coalition for Minority Youth Equality meeting, please check the meeting schedule and contact Anna Lopez: anna.lopez@state.co.us or  (303) 239-5705.  For additional information, definitions and data on disprorportionate minority contact in Colorado, visit the Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice DMC page