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Disproportionate Minority Confinement Study

Tennessee has released a study examining the problem of disproportionate confinement (DMC) in Tennessee. The study used both a quantitative and qualitative methods to collect information on youth coming in contact with Tennessee's juvenile courts and makes recommendations to address DMC in the future.

DMC in Tennessee

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 the ages of 10 through 17 was African-American.

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 general population."

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:

  • Poverty;
  • 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.

Research Findings

  • 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 20 percent 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.

Mission Statement

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 confinement."

Who Can Attend

DMC Task Force Meetings are open to the public.