Reducing Racial & Ethnic Disparities

Reducing racial disparities requires specific strategies aimed at eliminating bias and ensuring a level playing field for youth of color. Racial/ethnic disparities are the most stubborn aspect of detention reform. Real lasting change in this arena requires committed leadership, on-going policy analysis and targeted policies and programming.

 Tools & Resources


The Formal RED Mandate

The responsibility to reduce racial/ethnic disparities (RED) in JDAI sites is shared across agencies at the policy-level and is often institutionalized by a formal mandate, MOU or resolution to reduce racial/ethnic disparities. Applying the “equity lens” to each of JDAI’s core strategies and working intentionally to reduce bias at each decision point is central to detention reform and requires a comprehensive approach carried out by key champions and system stakeholders. ​

RED Work Plan

Disaggregated Data

All data for JDAI is disaggregated by race and ethnicity, and used strategically to identify and address disparities. Sites use this disaggregated data to understand the scale, scope, and underlying causes of racial / ethnic disparities in their juvenile justice systems; to analyze the impact of changes in policy, practices and programs on all racial / ethnic groups, especially those who are over-represented in secure detention; and to set priorities for their detention reform efforts, so that reducing disparities remains a central strategic concern.

Community Engagement

JDAI sites intentionally seek ways to engage communities of color in their detention reform efforts, at the policy and practice levels. Sites adopt a variety of different approaches to secure that engagement, but the hallmarks of a site that is doing it successfully include: consistent, active participation by recognized leaders from communities of color in collaborative committees and workgroups; representation of those communities not just at the steering committee level, but on relevant workgroups and standing subcommittees; and partnerships with community-based organizations that are not limited to JDAI committee meetings, but rather extend into the day-to-day delivery of services and operation of programs in communities of color.

Special Detention Case Reforms

Special detention cases - probation violators, warrants, and youth held in detention awaiting placement - are often the most difficult segments of the detention population to reduce. But compared with other types of detention cases that are easier to reduce, these special detention cases are often disproportionately youth of color. Insufficient focus on reducing these populations, in favor of detention reforms that focus on “easier” cases that include more White youth, can therefore aggravate disparities. JDAI sites adopt an intentional focus to ensure that these populations are not overlooked, as a means to combat RED.
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Gaithersburg, MD 20878
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