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OJJDP News @ a Glance February 2024

OJJDP Funds New Center Targeting Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Youth Justice

chris bijoux, CJJR’s deputy director for Equity and Racial Justice
chris bijoux, CJJR’s deputy director for Equity and Racial Justice, leads a training on racial and ethnic disparities. (Photo courtesy of CJJR.)

The new Center for Reducing Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Juvenile Justice (the Center) is the latest example of OJJDP’s ongoing commitment to confronting and dismantling inequities and discrimination in the juvenile justice system. With OJJDP fiscal year 2023 funding, the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform (CJJR) at Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy is launching the Center, in partnership with the Coalition for Juvenile Justice and the Center for Children’s Law and Policy

Disparities persist nationwide, as OJJDP’s National Racial and Ethnic (R/ED) Disparities Databook reveals. According to the latest available statistics, in 2020, Black youth were far more likely than any other racial group to be referred to juvenile court for delinquency offenses (with the exception of drug offenses). Cases involving white youth were most likely to be diverted. Youth of color were more likely than white youth to be detained, and cases involving white youth were less likely to result in placement than those involving Black or Hispanic youth. 

Addressing disparities that permeate the youth justice field “has always been a core aspect” of CJJR’s work, Director Michael Umpierre says. A longtime provider of research-based training and technical assistance, CJJR supports efforts to transform the juvenile justice system in jurisdictions nationwide—from assessing local endeavors to creating practice models and leading anti-racism trainings for justice professionals. CJJR’s chris bijoux, deputy director for Equity and Racial Justice, oversees these efforts, which include CJJR’s Advancing Racial Justice and Equity in Youth Legal Systems certificate program. 

“The establishment of the Center for Reducing Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Juvenile Justice aligns with CJJR’s goals to support the youth justice field in areas that necessitate more than just reform, but rather fundamental transformation,” Mr. Umpierre says. 

The Center will be multifaceted and take a proactive approach, aiming to bridge the gap between research and practice. It will construct “a repository of existing practices” that are rooted in research and have a history of successful use by legal systems, Mr. Umpierre says, and will also “actively formulate critical research questions and spur innovative efforts in the field.”

“The establishment of the Center for Reducing Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Juvenile Justice underscores our commitment to addressing one of the most pressing issues of our time with courage, boldness, and unwavering dedication.”

—CJJR Director Michael Umpierre

The Center will prioritize meaningful partnerships with system-involved youth and their families, ensuring they have a voice and play an active role in efforts to address and correct racial inequities. This includes convening a dedicated Youth and Family Council and granting members input into all Center activities. “By engaging directly with individuals with lived experiences within the system, we aim to gain valuable insights beyond statistical data, creating a more nuanced understanding of the challenges, systemic barriers, and strategies,” Mr. bijoux says. The Center will emphasize the same message when providing training and technical assistance, encouraging stakeholders to build authentic relationships with youth and families. 

“CJJR’s work and mission supports and complements OJJDP’s three priorities—treating children as children; serving them at home, with their families, in their communities; and opening up opportunities for system-involved youth,” says OJJDP Administrator Liz Ryan. “OJJDP is excited to deepen our collaboration with CJJR as we strive—together—to reduce the racial and ethnic disparities that impede far too many young people.” 

Date Created: February 22, 2024