Reducing Racial & Ethnic Disparities

Youth of color are over-represented at nearly every stage of the juvenile justice system in Massachusetts.  These disparities have actually worsened over time, with the result that the “fairness” that is necessary to a functioning justice system is increasingly under threat. 

National research has found that these disparities cannot be adequately explained by differential offending.[1]  In some cases, they relate to policing practices in communities of color (“differential enforcement”), as well as “differential processing. ” Implicit or explicit biases within the system, policies or practices that are facially neutral but that disproportionately burden children of color (e.g. detaining youth whose parents do not appear in court at a hearing, since families of color are less likely to own a car), and “structural inequalities” such as poverty and lack of access to quality schools[2] also help drive and worsen disparities. 

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CfJJ employs multiple strategies to identify and reduce these disparities, including: 

  1. Advocating for legislation and other policies to ensure adequate data collection and transparency within the system through our Just Facts Campaign. Having and sharing the data is critical so that the disparities can be acknowledged, understood, and addressed.
  2. Researching, documenting and publicizing disparities through publications and other educational projects.
  3. Working with youth, parents, and grassroots community organizations to identify alternatives to court and out of home confinement that are culturally appropriate and responsive to the needs of youth of color and the communities in which they live through our Diversion Network initiative.
  4. Supporting the work of the Massachusetts Juvenile Justice and Child Welfare  Leadership Forum to promote systemic, agency and court-led efforts to identify and address over-representation and disparities within the system.
  5. Collaborating and partnering with other initiatives seeking to address disparities and promote racial equity in our systems, including Massachusetts JDAI's Racial and Ethnic Disparities project and the Massachusetts Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee.