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Understanding Ethnic Disparities in Probation: What Affects Decisions?

Award Information

Award #
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2014, $47,752)

This program furthers the Department's mission by sponsoring small studies and/or secondary analyses of existing data to improve knowledge about the scope and impact of ethnic disparities affecting Hispanic/Latino youth's contact and involvement with the juvenile justice system.

Ethnic disparities in juvenile justice system involvement are well-documented and have been persistent despite decades of effort. Understanding the basis for disparities in a county - and therefore the potential for system change to reduce DMC - requires an understanding of the factors that govern decision making other than current offense, such as the dispositional alternatives available in a particular setting and characteristics of youth in relation to the alternatives. This proposed research will explore the process of probation decision making by placing it in the context of constraints and options available at various decision points.

Specifically, the study will (1) use existing information on probation actions for one year (2013) cohorts of youth referred in two California counties (electronic and hard copy records) to derive an empirical overview of how cases are handled at various decision points for different types of referrals and for different ethnic groups. The primary focus will be on "decision points" that have been identified as most relevant to the study of ethnic disparities, using the OJJDP RRI as a framework. The decision making process will then be described for each decision point using documented policies and descriptions obtained from interviews with probation staff and administrators. University of California Davis will (2) also perform a more detailed analysis (case studies) of a small ethnically based representative subsample of these youth via interviews with probation officers and review of case files - focusing on cumulative decisions and restrictions on options as a function of resources or policy. The information obtained through these processes may identify new insights into decision making which can then be tested in future large-scale research.


Date Created: September 14, 2014