There are persistent racial and ethnic disparities in the juvenile justice system. The current paper reviews how and whether public and private strategies have effectively reduced such disparities and bias within the juvenile justice system. The review initially provides a description of the overrepresentation and continuous presence of racial and ethnic minority youth in the juvenile justice system. Next, two traditional explanations for these juvenile justice disparities are discussed (i.e., differential offending perspective, selection bias perspective). The current paper then focuses on reviewing three primary initiatives aimed at reducing racial/ethnic disparities in juvenile justice settings, discussing barriers and successes to each practice. These include the Federal Disproportionate Minority Contact mandate of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative model, and the Models for Change initiative. Overall, our review indicated that efforts to reduce racial and ethnic minority youth overrepresentation and selection bias are often ineffective, though some practices do have mixed support. Finally, our review concludes with an integrated discussion of how the politico-legal environment can impact both racial and ethnic disparities in the juvenile justice system and the ability to enact change.
- Disproportionate minority contact
- Juvenile justice
ASJC Scopus subject areas