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Disproportionate Minority Confinement: A Review of the Research Literature From 1989 Through 2001

NCJ Number
Date Published
24 pages
This bulletin reviews studies of disproportionate minority confinement (DMC) of juveniles that have been published in professional academic journals and scholarly books from March 1989 through December 2001.
Similar to an earlier research summary (Pope and Feyerherm, 1990), the current review focuses on empirical research studies of the official processing of minority youth, defined by the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention as African-Americans, American Indians, Asians, Pacific Islanders, and Hispanics. The studies reviewed examined an array of processing points and outcomes, including arrest, detention, petition, adjudication, and disposition. Disposition (20 studies) and petition (13 studies) were the most frequently examined processing points; more than half (18) of the studies examined multiple decision points in juvenile justice processing. The majority of the studies reviewed (25 out of 34) reported race effects in the processing of youth. Taken together, the research findings support the existence of disparities and potential biases in juvenile justice processing; however, the causes and mechanisms of these disparities are complex. Important contributing factors may include inherent system bias, effects of local policies and practices, and social conditions (inequality, family situation, or underemployment) that may place youth at risk. Overrepresentation may also result from the interaction of a number of factors. This review shows that the body of knowledge concerning DMC is growing, albeit slowly, and the research is increasing in complexity. It highlights the diversity present across the studies in terms of perspectives, approaches, designs, definitions, and measures. This bulletin concludes with guidelines for further research in this area and recommendations for a national policy agenda regarding DMC research. 34-item bibliography

Date Published: January 1, 2002