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"JJDPA"

March/April 2011 issue of Poverty & Race

First enacted in 1974, the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevent Act (JJDPA) incentivizes states to adhere to four core protections designed to protect court-involved youth across the nation.

Among these is the Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC) core protection, which directs states to "address juvenile delinquency prevention efforts and system improvement efforts designed to reduce . . . the disproportionate number of juvenile members of minority groups, who come into contact with the juvenile justice system."

Since 2007, the Act 4 Juvenile Justice Campaign (Act4JJ) has advocated for a number of improvements to the JJDPA, including one that would strengthen the DMC core protection to require states and localities to take more concrete steps to achieve measurable reductions in DMC more effectively, and provide the supports they need to do so. This improvement, and other needed amendments to the JJDPA, has twice been approved by the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee in the 110th and 111th Congresses.

Since its addition to the JJDPA in 1988, the DMC core protection has led jurisdictions to pay much more attention to this issue. Of the 55 states and territories that participate with the JJDPA, better than 90% of them have state-level committees dedicated to addressing DMC within their borders. A key feature of these efforts is data-gathering; states are required to report their disparities, and many jurisdictions are beginning to learn how to interpret that information and to consider ways to implement meaningful interventions. The challenge is that involving the community, accurate gathering of data, meaningful interpretation of such data, finding and implementing solutions indicated by the data, and engaging in transparent assessment of success are what jurisdictions need to do in order to create meaningful change. The strengthening amendments to the DMC provision of the JJDPA are designed to guide and support states in achieving these next steps.

Reauthorization of the JJDPA is now four years overdue. The Act4JJ Campaign continues to gain momentum to reauthorize a strong and forward-thinking JJDPA that is grounded in more than 30 years of research about "what works" and aligns with emerging practices proven to reduce delinquency, protect youth and improve public safety. To learn more, visit www.act4jj.org.

Courtesy of Tara Andrews, Deputy Exec. Dir., Policy & Programs, Coalition for Juvenile Justice
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