Disproportionate Minority Confinement
In 2007 59 percent
of juveniles in the state's
secure detention centers were African-American.
Eighty percent of juveniles transferred to
adult court in Tennessee in 2007 were African-American.
In Tennessee, 21 percent of the population under the age of 18 years was
At this time, Tennessee and all other states are engaged in efforts to determine
whether or not minorities are disproportionately incarcerated in the state. In 1988, the
Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (JJDP) Act was amended to require states to
"address efforts to reduce the proportion of juveniles detained or confined in secure
detention facilities, secure correctional facilities, jails and lockups who are members of
minority groups if such proportion exceeds the proportion such groups represent in the
Minority Overrepresentation -- (MOR) examines the cumulative societal issues that
contribute to the disparate number of minority youth who come into contact with the
juvenile justice system.
Disproportionate Minority Confinement (DMC)-- refers to an overrepresentation of
minority youth in secure confinement, i.e. there is a greater proportion of minority youth
in confinement than the proportion of minority youth in the population.
A report commissioned by TCCY to study the problem of DMC in Tennessee is available on the website.
Causes and Correlates of DMC
A common perception is that minority children commit a disproportionate share of all
offenses, thus the disproportionate minority confinement. Whether the perception is
factual is open to debate. The following are some of the less debatable causes:
- Single parent families;
- Segregation and stagnated socialization;
- Lack of cultural perspective and competence;
- High minority youth unemployment;
- Subjective decision-making in the juvenile justice system;
- Absence of or poor legal representation;
- Under-representation of ethnic/racial administrative and direct service providers;
- Lack of education;
- Overt discrimination and racism.
- In 2000, African-Americans represented 15 percent of the U.S.
population of youth between the ages of 12-17.
- In Tennessee, 20 percent of the 12-17 population was African-American.
- In 1990, African-Americans were involved in 31 percent of delinquency cases brought
before the court, according to data from the National Juvenile Court Data Archive,
indicating that African-American juveniles are represented disproportionately.
- In Tennessee, for 2000, African-Americans were involved in 63
percent of the delinquency cases.
- In 2000, for Tennessee, 70 percent of juveniles in secure detention
centers were African-American.
- A youth who is detained in a secure facility prior to adjudication is more likely to be
subsequently incarcerated. Indeed, preadjudication detention is one of the best predictors
of commitment to a State juvenile correctional facility.
- In 2000, 59 percent of juveniles transferred to adult court
in Tennessee were African-American, 33 percent were White and
8 percent were other minorities.
- In Tennessee, African-American juveniles were disproportionately confined in secure
juvenile correctional facilities.
- In 2000, 54 percent of juveniles in secure juvenile correctional
facilities were African-American, 26 percent were white and 20percent
were other minorities.
Without a doubt, minority youth are overrepresented at all stages of the juvenile
justice process. This is especially evident in secure-confinement facilities, with the
degree of overrepresentation being lowest at the point of arrest and increasing at each
subsequent stage. Although the size of the disproportion varies from state to state, the
disproportion exists practically everywhere in America.
How Do We Address the Problem of DMC?
- Ensure equitable treatment;
- Provide effective delinquency prevention and early intervention programs;
- Educate system participants and educate policy makers;
- Provide cultural sensitivity and competency training for law enforcement, judges,
teachers, attorneys, service providers, and concerned citizens;
- Use more objective decision-making criteria throughout the system;
- Make changes in processing policies and procedures;
- Allocate limited system resources and programs equitably;
- Implement better juvenile justice data collection and analysis systems;
- Provide better monitoring of the operation of the system.
What is the Role of the States?
Each state must address the question of overrepresentation of minorities in secure
confinement in the juvenile justice system. The state must determine where the problem
exists, to what degree numerically there is overrepresentation, and suggest solutions to
ensure equal treatment for all youth.
What Has TCCY Done To Comply With the DMC Core Requirement?
- Grant Applications that focus services on minority children receive priority
consideration for funding.
- The Minority Issues Committee of TCCY recommended the development of the DMC Task Force.
- TCCY employed a DMC Task Force Coordinator.
- The DMC Task Force developed preliminary recommendations for action.
- Regional Council meetings have provided data and information about DMC and strategies
for addressing it.
- DMC information has been included in Juvenile Justice workshops and conferences
throughout the state.
- TCCY published two editions of The Advocate focusing on DMC.
What is the DMC Task Force?
The Disproportionate Minority Confinement Task Force is a statewide
task force sponsored by the Tennessee Commission on Children and
Youth that consists of concerned citizens from across the state
who come together quarterly.
The DMC Task Force has set its mission:
"To develop a comprehensive strategy for raising the awareness of
disproportionate confinement of minority youth in the juvenile justice system and promote
the best practices and policies to eradicate the problem of overrepresentation in secure
Who Can Attend?
DMC Task Force Meetings are open to the public.
What Citizens Can Do?
- Mentor a child.
- Tutor a child.
- Contribute money.
- Support public policies.
- Support efforts to keep children in school.
- Get involved with children in the community.
Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth
Andrew Johnson Tower, 9th Floor
710 James Robertson Parkway
Nashville, TN 37243-0800
Phone: (615) 741-2633
Fax: (615) 741-5956
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