Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission
ANNUAL REPORT TO THE
GOVERNOR AND GENERAL ASSEMBLY
for Calendar Years 2007 and 2008

February 10, 2009


Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC)

Pursuant to section 223(a)(22) of the JJDP Act, states must initiate delinquency prevention and system improvement efforts designed to reduce, without establishing or requiring numerical standards or quotas, the disproportionate number of minority juveniles who come into contact with the juvenile justice system. Disproportionate minority contact exists if the rate of contact with the juvenile justice system of a specific minority group is significantly different than the rate of contact for non-Hispanic whites or for other minority groups.

The purpose of this requirement is to ensure equal and fair treatment for every youth involved in the juvenile justice system. A state achieves compliance when it addresses DMC on an ongoing basis through identification of the extent to which DMC exists; assessment of the factors that contribute to DMC, if it exists; development and implementation of strategies to address such contributing factors; evaluation of the efficacy of such intervention strategies; and monitoring DMC trends over time.

States are required to submit DMC Identification Spreadsheets (race/ethnicity data for each of nine decision points in the juvenile justice system) as part of the DMC Compliance Plan in their 3-year application/plan.

Status of Compliance

In calendar years 2006 and 2007, Illinois was in compliance with the DMC core requirement.

In calendar year 2005, African-American youth between the ages of 10 and 16 in Illinois were arrested at a level that was more than 300 percent of their representation in the general youth population, while the rate for Caucasian youth was a mere 51 percent of their representation in the general population. This means that an African-American youth in Illinois was six times more likely to be arrested than a Caucasian youth. (Similar comparisons by ethnicity are not available in large part because the Illinois State Police's form used to report arrests do not contain an ethnicity identifier. Further, the State Police only require that police departments report felony arrests and therefore many misdemeanor arrests go unreported giving an incomplete picture of the true number of juvenile arrests.)

African-American youth were admitted to detention three times their representation in the general population; Hispanics at 61 percent; and Caucasians at about 33 percent. Further, an African-American youth was eight times more likely to be committed to an Illinois Youth Center than a youth who was Caucasian; a Hispanic youth also was more likely than a Caucasian youth to be committed. And although the average length of stay (ALOS) for all youth in detention has decreased over the past years, the relative length of stay for youth of color remains consistently higher than that for Caucasian youth.

The issue of disproportionate minority contact with the juvenile justice system is persistent and extraordinarily complex. There are numerous factors that lead to over-representation of minority youth in the juvenile justice system, i.e. unsafe and impoverished school and home environments, lack of parental support, unfair practices by police departments, and unemployment.

The Commission's primary approach to reducing DMC is the W. Haywood Burns Institute (BI) model. The BI is a national organization working to reduce the over-representation of minority youth in the juvenile justice system. The BI model requires the active commitment and participation of key traditional and non-traditional stakeholders in the juvenile justice system. The Institute leads stakeholders through a data-driven, consensus-based process that focuses on changing policies, procedures and practices to reduce racial disparities in the system. Illinois' project began in four pilot locations: Peoria; South Suburban Cook County; the Lawndale Community Area of Chicago; and St. Clair County and has now expanded to Macon County, the Englewood community area of Chicago, and Sauk Village.

IJJC Action and Recommendations

Action

  • In 2007 and 2008, DMC continued to be a priority; the Commission allocated $340,000 in SFY2007 and $698,000 in SFY2008.
  • The Commission continues to fund a statewide DMC Coordinator position.
  • The Commission has partnered with the Annie E. Casey Foundation to address the issue of DMC through Detention Alternatives.
  • Following site readiness assessments, funding for the four DMC pilot sites, Lawndale, South Suburbs (SSDMC), Peoria and East St. Louis, was expanded to include three new sites: Macon County, the Englewood community area of Chicago, and Sauk Village. Each site has a local coordinator.
  • Ongoing technical assistance was provided through the BI for the statewide Coordinator and each pilot site. Data were compiled at each site to document DMC in detail.
  • The Commission continued to partner with Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago to design and conduct a survey assessment of DMC practices across the state, bringing together vested stakeholders from the juvenile justice system to ascertain their perceptions, attitudes and beliefs concerning reducing racial disparities in the system and what practices they currently utilize to do so. The survey will be administered in selected Illinois communities in 2009 and results available late 2009.
  • The Commission worked with others such as the Models for Change initiative to explore strategies to improve the collection of race and ethnicity data at the various decision points in the system. As a first step, this partnership developed a booklet that provides instruction and guidance to juvenile justice practitioners on accurate racial coding of juveniles.
  • The DMC and detention alternatives efforts supported by the IJJC have succeeded in effecting a positive change in detention admission and average length of stay. The development or redesign of detention screening instruments allowed detention centers to decline admissions that were not appropriate, the majority of which were often minority youth.
  • On October 31st through November 2nd 2007, the IJJC sponsored, along with others, Illinois's first annual collaborative juvenile justice conference entitled "Connecting the Pathways." This conference was designed to disseminate knowledge and promote collaboration between juvenile justice and youth development workers from across the state. The conference was spawned from the realization that while the state's juvenile justice reform initiatives are focused on similar outcomes they do not necessarily work in conjunction with one another towards the achievement of common goals. The conference served as collaboration among five programs: the Illinois Balanced and Restorative Justice Initiative, Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative, Redeploy Illinois, MacArthur's Models for Change, and Disproportionate Minority Contact. All DMC coordinators participated in the conference with some hosting informational sessions. Sixth District Court Judge and SSDMC advisory board member Michael Stuttely was a keynote speaker and spoke about the judicial response to DMC. In addition, the IJJC sponsored a DMC Legislative Reception at the conference. The reception was attended by approximately 250 conference participants, as well as members of the General Assembly and representatives of the Governor's Office.
  • The Models for Change initiative, is another effort in Illinois created to replicate successful DMC models of juvenile justice reform through targeted investments, and funded by the Chicago-based John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. With long-term funding and support, the Illinois initiative of Models for Change has collaborated with the IJJC to disseminate educational materials, including the DMC booklet, "Illinois: Reducing DMC, Promoting Accountability and Fairness In Juvenile Justice".
  • In September 2007, a focus group was held in Chicago to ascertain public perceptions of youth, crime, race and the juvenile justice system. Based on the results, a statewide survey was developed for Illinois residents. The survey revealed that the public recognizes the potential for young people to change, agrees that the provision of treatment and services are more effective ways of rehabilitating youth than incarceration, and acknowledges that the juvenile justice system treats low income youth, Hispanic youth, and African-American youth unfairly.

Recommendations

  • Collecting accurate data on race and ethnicity is necessary to provide a better understanding of the problem of disproportionate minority contact in Illinois. The Illinois State Police must be required to revise the arrest fingerprint card, and any related systems, to allow for the collection of ethnicity data.
  • Financial resources should be directed to counties and communities with high rates of DMC. These funds should be directed through existing initiatives such as DMC, JDAI and Redeploy Illinois. Funds should be used to impact the fundamental fairness of the system, to study the extent of the issue, develop and implement strategies to address DMC and to develop and expand alternatives to secure confinement.
  • The General Assembly should explore the possibility of further expanding automatic transfer reform. A study of the consequences of PA 94-0574 conducted by the Illinois Juvenile Justice Initiative and published as Changing the Course: A Review of the First Two Years of Drug Transfer Reform in Illinois (June 2008), found that in the two years following the Drug Transfer Reform, the number of youth automatically tried as adults was reduced by more than two-thirds. Further, nearly all (98%) of those affected by this change were youth of color (87% African American and 11% Hispanic).