April 2013 Bar Bulletin
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April 2013 Bar Bulletin

Commission Releases Data on Racial, Ethnic Disparity in Juvenile Justice System


In an effort to reduce racial disparities in the justice system, the Washington Supreme Court's Minority and Justice Commission has released preliminary data on racial and ethnic disproportionality in Washington's juvenile courts. Compiled by the Washington State Center for Court Research, the data identify where in the juvenile justice system - from arrest to sentencing - disproportionate minority contact ("DMC") occurs (available online at www.courts.wa.gov/wsccr/DMC).

The data collection is a follow-up to a March 2012 forum conducted by the Task Force on Race and the Criminal Justice System where statistics were reported showing a disproportionate number of youth of color entering the juvenile justice system. Following the event, the Supreme Court requested the Minority and Justice Commission's Juvenile Justice Committee to follow up on recommendations made during the forum, one of which was to obtain and publicize more detailed statistics relating to disproportionality.

"The Court applauds the work of the Minority and Justice Commission," said Chief Justice Barbara Madsen. "Increasing the quality of data collected by courts is key to fully understanding how and where racial and ethnic inequality arises. We are in full support of this work and innovative programs such as Models for Change and the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative that are making strides to reduce the level of disproportionate minority contact for youth of color in our state."

While based on data currently available, the information is preliminary and reveals several gaps in data collection, particularly as it relates to Hispanic/Latino youth. A key goal is to continually improve the usefulness of the report so that courts and others can better understand where - and why - racial and ethnic disproportionality occurs in the juvenile justice system. With improved data quality, the report can also be used to assess changes in disproportionality over time.

As a first step, the Superior Court Judges' Association and the Washington Association of Juvenile Court Administrators have agreed to work on best practices for race and ethnicity data collection.

"The Washington Association of Juvenile Court Administrators values this opportunity to improve the collection and analysis of data necessary to enhance efforts to understand and address issues of fairness and equity in the juvenile justice system," said Washington Association of Juvenile Court Administrators President Pat Escamilla.

This effort will incorporate innovative programs working to reduce disparity in Washington's juvenile courts. These include:

Models for Change Initiative

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