What is DMC?

Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC):

Describes the higher rate of involvement of youth of color at a particular decision point in the juvenile justice system when compared with the previous decision point.

And when compared to the rate at which non-Hispanic White youth appear at the same decision points.


Racial-Ethnic Disparities (RED) 

Describes when youth of color experience the juvenile justice system differently from white youth. Youth of color are more likely to be arrested, detained, and confined than white youth, and are more likely to be tried as adults. [1]

These disparities have deep historical roots reaching back long before the founding of the juvenile justice system. [2]


Why Do We Have DMC?

Minority youth may have less access to prevention and treatment services

• Minority families may have fewer education and job opportunities

• Lack of understanding between minority youth and law enforcement may lead to increased juvenile justice system involvement

• Communities may have inadequate resources for serving minority youth

• Agencies may use decision-making criteria with unintended DMC impact

• Governments may pass laws with unintended DMC impact

Racial-Ethnic Disparities (RED) are often referred to as “disproportionate minority contact,” or “DMC”

However, regional and national demographic shifts make it more appropriate to refer to the issue as “racial-ethnic disparities,” without reference to “minorities.”

Within “racial-ethnic disparities,” there are 3 types of differences that can be observed:

  • “Disproportionate Minority Contact” (DMC);

  • “Overrepresentation” describes that the percentage of youth in the justice system is higher than the percentage in the general population;

  • “Disparate Treatment” describes situation when youth are treated less favorably than others for similar conduct because of factors unrelated to their behavior (i.e. race and ethnicity)

Disparate treatment, as well as many other factors, can cause over-representation and disproportionate minority contact.

Racial-ethnic fairness refers to treating all youth in the justice system equitably and fairly, regardless of their skin color or ethnic background.

[1] National Conference of State Legislatures, “Disproportionate Minority Contact,” 2, at http://bit.ly/1cUiE3w, in Juvenile Justice Guidebook for Legislators (Denver, CO: Nov. 2011), http://bit.ly/1mpipyK; “The overwhelming majority of cases (83%) that were filed in adult courts involved youth of color.” Neelum Arya and Ian Augarten, “Critical Condition: African-American Youth in the Justice System,” vol. 2 of Race and Ethnicity (Washington D.C.: Campaign for Youth Justice, Sept. 2008): 25, http://bit.ly/1drdlVA.

[2] James Bell and Laura John Ridolfi, “Adoration of the Question: Reflections on the Failure to Reduce Racial & Ethnic Disparities in the Juvenile Justice System,” ed. Shadi Rahimi, vol. 1 (San Francisco, CA: W. Haywood Burns Institute, Dec. 2008): 2, http://bit.ly/1egBPTa.