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Minority Overrepresentation (MOR) and
Disproportionate Minority Confinement (DMC)

Alaska Division of Family and Youth Services (DFYS)

This document is the first issue of the Alaska Division of Family and Youth Services (DFYS) Data Summary series. The Data Summary series is a bi-yearly publication, designed to provide the reader with some quantitative indices that measure service activities provided statewide by DFYS. This Data Summary focuses on an aspect of youth correction services provided by DFYS. Please keep in mind that the scope of these indices are limited to the youth correction referrals received by DFYS.

OVERVIEW

This newsletter addresses the issue of minority overrepresentation (MOR) and Disproportionate Minority Confinement (DMC) in Alaska’s juvenile justice system. MOR and DMC are generally defined as minority (non-white) youth being represented in the juvenile justice system, including youth detention and correctional facilities, at a greater proportion than their distribution in the total at-risk population. The general population, age 10 through 17, is considered to be the at-risk population.

During 1988, the reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDP Act) established new requirements for states to address the problem of overrepresentation of minority youth in secure facilities.

The JJDP Act encourages states to examine their entire juvenile justice system. Alaska’s juvenile justice system encompasses several agencies such as village public safety agencies, local law enforcement agencies, the Alaska State Troopers, the Alaska Department of Law, and the Alaska Court system. The scope of this analysis is limited to DFYS’ portion of the Alaska juvenile justice system.

The discussion topics presented in this newsletter are:

  • A general overview of Alaska’s juvenile justice system.
  • An overview of the methodology used to conduct our analysis.
  • A discussion of the population data used in this analysis.
  • A discussion of specific points in the juvenile justice system where minority overrepresentation exists.
  • A discussion of DFYS' current plan to address MOR and DMC issues.

It is important to note that this analysis does not explore specific reasons for MOR and DMC in Alaska’s juvenile justice system. The function is to determine if MOR and DMC exists, and if so, what decision points in the juvenile justice system require further examination.


ALASKA’S JUVENILE JUSTICE SYSTEM

DFYS reduces or prevents delinquency by meeting the needs of youthful offenders in a manner consistent with protection of the public. To accomplish this DFYS provides the following services:

  • Juvenile delinquency prevention
  • Screening referrals
  • Short-term detention of preadjudicated youth
  • Investigation of alleged offenses
  • Identification of each youth's and family's strengths and needs
  • Legal intervention
  • Informal and formal probation
  • Out-of-home placement
  • Long-term confinement/treatment for adjudicated offenders

Figure 1 illustrates the DFYS portion of Alaska’s juvenile justice system.

minor
Figure 1

As Figure 1 illustrates, there are four principal decision points in the DFYS youth corrections delivery system: referral, preadjudicatory detention screening, intake investigation, and court proceedings.

A delinquency referral is the juvenile’s initial point of entry into the DFYS youth corrections delivery system. A referral is a law enforcement report to DFYS of criminal conduct on the part of a juvenile.

Preadjudicatory detention screening is the process of determining if preadjudicatory detention is appropriate for those youth for whom it has been requested as part of the law enforcement referral. There are five possible outcomes in the detention screening process: Detention, Released, Emergency Placement, Attendant Care Shelter, and Not Requested. During the analysis period, 18.5% of all referrals were accompanied by a request for detention.

Once DFYS receives a referral that includes a request for detention, DFYS performs a detention determination. The detention determination considers a number of factors in determining if detention is in the juvenile’s and community’s best interest. Some examples are: severity of the offense, imminent harm to the juvenile or community, a history of violent conduct on the part of the juvenile, and whether nor not the crime contains elements of serious physical harm. DFYS determined that secure Detention was appropriate for 77.6% of these referrals.

The purpose of the intake investigation is to determine if the referral is legally sufficient to support the filing of a court petition. If DFYS determines that sufficiency exists, the agency gathers information to determine the type of action that would best serve both the juvenile and the public. There are six possible investigation outcomes: In Process, Adjusted, Dismissed, Detention Screen Only, Informal Probation, and Petition.

Court proceedings result from DFYS filing a formal petition for adjudication of a juvenile. Each referral that resulted in an investigation outcome of Petition will have a court proceedings decision. The seven possible court proceeding decisions are: In Process, Dismissed, Diverted, Held in Abeyance, Adjudicated, Withdrawn, and Waived.

Although it is not specifically delineated in Figure 1, youth corrections supervision plays a very large role in the DFYS youth corrections delivery system, thus, we have included these records in this analysis.

Supervision of a juvenile is established as a result of a formal probation agreement, diversion agreement, acceptance of interstate supervision, a court disposition order, or an order for probation without adjudication. This analysis compares the initial supervision level that was assigned to the juvenile for each supervision episode that occurred during the analysis period. There are seven possible supervision levels: Maximum Probation, Medium Probation, Minimum Probation, Informal Probation, Residential Care, Correctional Institution, and Out-of-State Institution.

Due to a limitation in our management information system we are unable to unequivocally link referral data with supervision records. As a result supervision data are reported separately in this analysis.


METHODOLOGY

The U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), which oversees the JJDP Act, issued a technical assistance manual in September of 1990. This technical assistance manual presented a three phased approach for states to follow when addressing MOR and DMC. DFYS followed the guidelines set forth in this manual as much as our data collection system would allow.

The first phase in this effort was for states to determine if and where differential processing of minorities occurred within the juvenile justice system. DFYS completed this phase during 1995.

The second phase involved further analysis of key decision points within the juvenile justice system to determine the most critical areas of overrepresentation. DFYS completed phase two in late 1995. DFYS plans to expand the phase two assessment to include research into the causes of overrepresentation in Alaska as well as research into specific control factors that influence MOR and DMC.

The third phase consists of initiating an action plan to positively impact the overrepresentation of minority youth in the juvenile justice system. DFYS, in conjunction with the Alaska Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee (AJJAC), devised a minority overrepresentation intervention plan in the spring of 1996.

DFYS developed a matrix that compares the race distribution of the general at-risk population with the race distribution of the number of juvenile delinquency referrals received by DFYS during the analysis period. From this comparison, an initial index was calculated to measure the degree of over or under representation of each racial group at the entry point into the DFYS juvenile justice system.

This initial index was then compared to indices calculated at each decision point of the juvenile justice system to determine where the critical areas of over or under representation exist.

For the purposes of this newsletter, we have aggregated data for the three year state fiscal year period 1993 through 1995 (07/01/92 through 06/30/95).


POPULATION SUMMARY

All population data used in this analysis was obtained from the Alaska Department of Labor. Figure 2 illustrates the racial distribution of all juveniles age 10 through 17 during the three year analysis period.


MINORITY OVERREPRESENTATION IN ALASKA

During the analysis period, DFYS received 25,596 juvenile delinquency referrals. Figure 2 illustrates the racial distribution of juveniles who were the subject of these referrals. Table 1 provides the index calculated for the juveniles who were the subject of these referrals.

As stated above, this index measures the degree of over or under representation of each racial group. An index of less than 1.00 indicates that the racial group is underrepresented. An index of 1.00 indicates that the racial group is proportionally represented. An index of more than 1.00 indicates that the racial group is overrepresented.

Racial Distribution of At-Risk Juveniles and

Juvenile Delinquency Referrals

FY93 through FY95


minor 2
Figure 2

Referral

As Table 1 demonstrates, Alaska Native and Black youth represent proportionally more of the referrals made to DFYS by law enforcement agencies then these racial groups represent in the at-risk population.

By establishing an initial entry index and then comparing it to indices calculated at each subsequent decision point in the DFYS youth corrections delivery system we are able to determine where the critical areas of over or under representation exist. For the purposes of this analysis, we will not discuss any decision point with less than 50 occurrences during this three year analysis period as these points represent indices with too few occurrences to make any qualitative representation judgments.

Our analysis included stratifying referral data by the charge type. DFYS currently groups referral charge types into six categories: Against Persons, Property, Public Order, Drug/Alcohol, Weapon, and Miscellaneous Offenses. Table 1 provides the initial referral index for each race group as well as the index for each race group for each referral charge type.

This stratification revealed that Alaska Native youth are overrepresented in the Drug/Alcohol referral charge type category. Alaska Native youth are underrepresented in the Property, Public Order, and Weapon referral charge type category.

Black youth were overrepresented in the Against Persons, Public Order, and Miscellaneous Offenses categories and were underrepresented in Drug/Alcohol referral charge type category.

Table 1
Indices of Juvenile Delinquency Referrals by
Charge Type and Race
FY93 through FY95

Referral Type

White
Index

Native
Index

Black
Index

Asian/PI
Index

All Referrals

0.75

1.49

1.71

0.38

Against Persons

0.69

1.55

2.21

0.38

Property

0.79

1.27

1.80

0.46

Public Order

0.75

1.28

2.46

0.53

Drug/Alcohol

0.66

2.25

0.36

0.13

Weapon

0.80

0.92

2.17

0.55

Miscellaneous Offenses

0.72

1.40

2.74

0.23


Preadjudicatory Detention Screening

At the point of preadjudicatory detention screening referrals on Black youth were accompanied by a request for detention at a disproportionately higher rate than all other races. This over representation may be attributed to the overrepresentation of Black youth in the Against Persons charge category. The Against Persons charge type category contains offenses that are generally more serious than other offense categories. These more serious referrals would most likely result in a request for preadjudicatory detention.

Once a referral that includes a request for detention is received by DFYS, staff determine the appropriate course of action. There are four possible outcomes: Release, Secure Detention, Emergency Placement, and Attendant Care Shelter. By comparing the index determined for each racial group at the point that a request for detention is received to the outcome of each request, over or under representation becomes apparent.

Alaska Native youth were overrepresented in the Attendant Care Shelter outcome, suggesting that Alaska Native youth are more likely to be placed in an Attendant Care Shelter setting than youth from any other racial group.

Black youth were overrepresented in the detention outcome at the detention screening decision point. This also appears to be consistent with the Black youth overrepresentation in the Against Persons charge category.

Intake Investigation

At the intake investigation decision point, White youth referrals were overrepresented compared to the total number of referrals where the investigation outcome had yet to be determined (i.e., In Process). This suggests that DFYS may process referrals of White juveniles more slowly than other racial groups. This overrepresentation may also be a demonstration of how differences in data entry procedures affect analysis outcomes. The Youth Corrections offices in the DFYS Southcentral Region records investigation outcomes slightly later in the juvenile justice process than the remaining offices. Since the Southcentral region is predominately White, this could appear in our MOR analysis as overrepresentation on a statewide basis.

Alaska Native youth were underrepresented at the investigation outcome of Informal Probation. This may be related to Alaska Native youth being overrepresented in the Drug/Alcohol offense category. For those youth who experience serious problems with drugs and/or alcohol, the six month limit for informal probation does not necessarily provide enough time for the youth to participate in a treatment program. Also, the voluntary nature of informal probation may not provide enough structure to address these generally longer term issues.

Black youth were overrepresented at the investigation outcome of Dismissed and Petition.

Overrepresentation in the Dismissed outcome suggests that referrals on Black youth, as a proportion of their total referral population, are not legally sufficient to support the filing of a court petition. As a result they are Dismissed.

This overrepresentation also suggests that referrals on Black youth, as a proportion of their total referral population, are more likely to have a formal petition for adjudication filed as a result of the referral. However, this should be interpreted with caution. Since, as stated above, Black youth experienced overrepresentation in the Against Persons charge type category and the Against Persons charge type category contains offenses that are generally more serious than other offense categories, it is logical to expect that these referrals would be petitioned more often.

Court Proceedings

The next decision point to be analyzed were the outcomes of the court proceedings. As stated above, there are seven possible court proceeding outcomes. To determine over or under representation at this decision point we have compared the index calculated from the total number of cases petitioned for each racial group to the indices calculated at each outcome point.

Alaska Native youth were overrepresented in the Dismissed and Diverted court outcome decisions. The overrepresentation of Alaska Native youth in the Diverted category may be linked to the overrepresentation of Native youth in the Drug/Alcohol offense category. In general, a formal diversion allows for a period of supervision of up to one year. In addition to requiring that the youth appear in court, the diversion agreement can include counseling and treatment. This should be interpreted with caution as Drug/Alcohol offenses do not necessarily mean that a youth is drug or alcohol dependent.

Black youth were overrepresented in the Dismissed and Adjudicated court outcome decisions.

Supervision Cases

The final decision point to be analyzed was the youth correction supervision files. Since, as stated above, there is no unequivocal link between specific outcomes in the previous four decision points and the supervision records, we performed a separate analysis.

During the analysis period, 3,763 juveniles were placed under the supervision of DFYS. Table 2 provides the racial distribution and index of juveniles who were placed on supervision during this period.

Table 2
Racial Distribution and Index of Juveniles Placed on Supervision
FY93 through FY95

Race

Percent Distribution

Index

White

56.7%

0.79

Alaska Native/American Indian

26.1%

1.32

Black

6.2%

1.33

Asian Pacific Islander

1.6%

0.40

Other/Unknown

9.4%

n/a

As Table 2 demonstrates, Alaska Native and Black youth represent proportionally more of DFYS youth corrections supervision cases then these racial groups represent in the total at-risk population.

However, it is more appropriate to compare the total supervision index to the initial referral index. When this comparison occurs, Black youth are underrepresented, compared to the distribution at the point of initial referral, compared to all other races. This suggests that a higher proportion, compared to all other races, of referrals on Black youth are processed through the juvenile justice system in a manner that does not include supervision. This underrepresentation is consistent with the Black overrepresentation in the Dismissed investigation outcome category and the Dismissed in the court proceedings category.

This finding is noteworthy as it also suggests that the multiplier effect is not significantly represented in the DFYS portion of the juvenile justice system. Given that Black youth were overrepresented at the initial point of referral, the expectation with the multiplier effect is that Black youth would be equally overrepresented in the number of supervised cases.

To continue the analysis further, we compared the indices of the seven initial supervision levels to the indices at the total supervision index. Table 3 provides the total supervision index for each racial group as well as the indices calculated for each level of supervision for each racial group. Although we are unable to compare supervision levels to the other decision points, please keep in mind that initial supervision levels are influenced by what occurs at the other decision points to a large degree.

Table 3
Indices of Youth Corrections Supervision Cases
by Supervision Level and Race
FY93 through FY95

Referral Type

White
Index
Native
Index
Black
Index
Asian/PI
Index

Total Supervision Cases

0.79

1.32

1.33

0.40

Maximum Probation

0.75

1.41

2.49

0.39

Medium Probation

0.73

1.47

2.17

0.47

Minimum Probation

0.78

1.52

1.00

0.49

Informal Probation

0.85

1.09

0.97

0.32

Residential Care

0.63

2.35

0.88

0.17

Correctional Institution

0.69

1.54

1.50

1.10

Out-of-State Institution

n/a

n/a

n/a

n/a

This analysis revealed that Alaska Native youth were underrepresented in the Informal Probation category and overrepresented in the Minimum Probation, Residential Care and Correctional Institution categories.

Black youth are underrepresented in the Informal Probation category and overrepresented in the Medium Probation category.

Limitations

We recognize that there are limitations to this analysis that may lead to an incomplete picture of MOR and DMC in Alaska. One such limitation is that we are unable to stratify this analysis by DFYS office due to the unavailability of demographic data for each location. Demographic data is necessary to determine over or under representation for specific DFYS offices. Overrepresentation is likely to differ considerably across jurisdictions. Although state level analysis may not indicate overrepresentation, it is possible that differential handling may occur in specific local jurisdictions.

Small numbers are an analysis limitation. Even with aggregating three years of data there are several decision outcomes that have an inadequate number of occurrences to calculate a qualitative result. For this reason, the Asian/Pacific Island racial group was not mentioned in this analysis except at the initial referral point.

Gender was not considered as a factor in this analysis. As an example, all Black youth were cited as being overrepresented at the initial point of referral. When referral data is stratified by gender, overrepresentation could be caused by overrepresentation of just one gender.

The DFYS data collection system also has some limitations. As stated above there are some data entry inconsistency issues related to this analysis. Also, the race of 7.5% of all youth referred during the analysis period was unknown. This could impact the analysis results if a specific area or specific areas that were predominately one race, were responsible for this deficiency.

It is our hope and intent to address some of these limitations in the future.


PLANS FOR THE FUTURE

The elements contributing to minority overrepresentation are complex and multifaceted. National research has suggested factors that may exist within the juvenile justice system itself, but also points to the relevance of social and economic indicators.

The state strategy should reflect a comprehensive community based youth services system that provides equal access for all youth involved with the juvenile justice system. DFYS, working closely with the AJJAC, will continue to implement strategies to address the issues surrounding overrepresentation of minority youth in the juvenile justice system. This will entail collaboration with other entities, including law enforcement, the court system, minority groups, and local citizens. Together, we can make a difference and continue to ensure that all youth, regardless of race, are treated equitably and fairly in the juvenile justice system.

The following are highlights from the intervention plan to address the overrepresentation of minority youth in the juvenile justice system.

DFYS required that grantees incorporate DMC and MOR elements into their FY97 Juvenile Justice Grants. The purpose was to encourage all grantees to address the issues of overrepresentation of minorities, specific to the particular program that they are implementing. This will be continued in future grant years.

DFYS plans to complete training and education in Policies and Procedures, Objective Decision-Making Criteria for arrest and intake decision, Cultural Sensitivity Training for all juvenile probation officers, and to include local law enforcement, judges, prosecutors, District Attorney’s and others in the juvenile justice system.

DFYS expects to make presentations to major statewide forums in the areas of law enforcement, juvenile corrections, adult corrections, social services and community groups for the purpose of providing ongoing education and information surrounding the issue of MOR and DMC.

DFYS also hopes to make funding available for a variety of projects designed to impact minority youth in the juvenile justice system. Examples could include juvenile diversion projects, community-based aftercare, mentoring programs, family support/runaway assistance, prevention projects, and before/after school programs.

Recently, DFYS signed agreements that allow local village courts in Elim and Koyuk to take responsibility for trying juveniles, aged 17 and under, who commit misdemeanor offenses under Alaska Statue 11, except sexual abuse of a minor. This is a voluntary option for juveniles and their families who reside in these villages that represents a local alternative to processing juveniles in the State court system. Those parties not agreeing to this alternative shall be referred to DFYS for investigation and prosecution under state law. The goal of these agreements is to provide a meaningful tool for locally initiated disposition of misdemeanor offenses whereby juveniles can be held accountable for their offenses swiftly and in a manner that is culturally meaningful to them. Appropriate records will be maintained should it prove necessary at a later date to prosecute a minor in the State court system. These agreements are a pilot project that DFYS hopes to duplicate in other villages across Alaska.


CONCLUSION

The ultimate goal of DFYS is for Alaska to improve the juvenile justice and youth services system by creating a comprehensive community based service system that provides services for all youth equally and which are available to all youth regardless of race.

Alaska Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee (AJJAC) AJJAC Subcommittee on MOR and DMC

The Alaska Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee (AJJAC) is a statewide advisory group, appointed by the Governor, that includes representatives from the fields of Juvenile Probation, private nonprofit agencies who work with youth, law enforcement, youth members, social service agencies, and others. In conjunction with the Division’s Juvenile Justice Specialist, the AJJAC assists the state in coming into compliance with the core requirements of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974, and works to improve the state’s juvenile justice system. The AJJAC has a MOR and DMC subcommittee that focuses on issues of overrepresentation of minority youth in the juvenile justice system. This group has worked closely with the state to identify issues and develop strategies to impact overrepresentation.

All AJJAC teleconferences and meetings are open to the public and are noticed in the Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Juneau papers. For more information on the date and location of the next meeting, please call Patty Ware at 465-2112 or e-mail at 3273@health.state.ak.us.

For the past few years the AJJAC subcommittee on MOR and DMC has been meeting to address the issue of overrepresentation of minorities in our juvenile justice system. Initial efforts involved data collection and analysis to determine if and where overrepresentation has occurred. We have moved on to targeting areas of concern and including MOR/DMC in the list of requirements for our grant applications. Future goals include public awareness, education of those working within the system and funding local projects that address the unique needs of minority youth.

It is of vital importance to us that we receive input from communities throughout Alaska. We would welcome the participation of all concerned individuals and groups who would like to meet with us. We intend to form a statewide task force dealing with MOR and DMC.

Barbara Tyndall
Alaska Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee
DMC Subcommittee Chair

Alaska Department of Health and Social Services
Division of Family and Youth Services
P.O. Box 110630
Juneau, Alaska 99811-0630