Disproportionate Minority Contact

DMC as a Core Requirement

In the 1988 amendments to the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974 (JJDP Act), Congress mandated that the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) require all states participating in the JJDP Act's Formula Grants Program to address disproportionate minority confinement (DMC) in their state plans. Specifically, if the proportion of a given minority group of youth who are detained or confined in a state's secure detention facilities, secure correctional facilities, jails, and lockups exceeded the proportion of that group represented in the general population, the state was required to develop and implement plans to reduce the disproportionate representation. In the 1992 amendments to the JJDP Act, DMC was elevated to a core protection for youth, with future funding eligibility tied to state compliance.

The JJDP Act of 2002, signed into law on November 2, 2002, modified the DMC requirement of the Act as follows:

“In order to receive formula grants under this part (Part B), a state shall submit a plan for carrying out its purposes applicable to a 3-year period…In accordance with regulations which the Administrator shall prescribe, such plan shall…(address) juvenile delinquency prevention efforts and system improvement efforts designed to reduce, without establishing or requiring numerical standards or quotas, the disproportionate number of juvenile members of minority groups who come into contact with the juvenile justice system.

This change essentially broadens the DMC initiative from disproportionate minority “confinement” to disproportionate representation of minority youth at all decision points along the juvenile justice system continuum. It further requires multi-pronged intervention strategies, including not only juvenile delinquency prevention efforts, but also system improvement efforts to assure equal treatment of all youth.

How to Meet the DMC Core Requirement of JJDP Act

Pursuant to section 223(a)(22) of the JJDP Act, states must address specific delinquency prevention and system improvement efforts to reduce the rate of contact with the juvenile justice system of a specific minority group when that rate is significantly greater than the rate of contact for whites or for other minority groups. The analysis should be conducted separately for each minority group within the state or locality that represents at least 1% of the total youth population at risk.

For purposes of this statutory mandate, majority population is defined as white (not Hispanic). Minority populations are defined as non-white and grouped as: American Indian or Alaska Native; Asian; Black or African-American; Hispanic or Latino; Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander. These six racial/ethnic categories serve as a minimum standard and permit additional categories provided they can be aggregated to the standard categories. States and localities are encouraged to address specific subgroups (e.g., the Filipinos or Samoans officially classified as Other Pacific Islanders) if their state and local circumstances indicate that such groups may be affected by DMC.

"Contact" refers to both initial legal encounters with law enforcement (arrest) and ongoing actions within the juvenile justice system such as detention, referral to juvenile court, issuance of petitions, adjudication, placement on probation, placement in secure juvenile corrections, transfer to adult court. The purpose of this core requirement is to ensure equal and fair treatment for every youth (regardless of membership in a minority or majority population group) involved in the juvenile justice system. It is essential that states approach this statutory mandate in a comprehensive, balanced, multi-prong, and ongoing manner.  It is also important that states address individual-, family-, community-, education system-, and other issues related to juvenile justice system involvement, as well as any features of their juvenile justice system and related laws and policies that may account for disproportionate juvenile justice system contact.

States undertake efforts to reduce DMC by moving through the following phases on an ongoing basis:

  • Identification: to determine the extent to which DMC exists.
  • Assessment: to assess the contributing factors to DMC, if it exists
  • Intervention: to develop and implement intervention strategies to address these identified contributing factors.
  • Evaluation: to evaluate the effectiveness of the chosen intervention strategies.
  • Monitoring: to note changes in DMC trends and to adjust intervention strategies as needed.

Each state must report on its progress and describe its DMC reduction plan in its comprehensive JJDP 3-year plan and subsequent plan updates. OJJDP reviews the plan and its updates annually. Any state that fails to show progress in its DMC reduction plan stands to lose 20 percent of its Formula Grants allocation for the year.

Challenges in Reducing DMC

Many states and localities have made great strides in understanding the factors that contribute to DMC and have designed and implemented strategies to address those factors. Some states and localities have even attempted to evaluate their efforts and monitor their DMC trends. However, important challenges remain, and they must be overcome before a significant reduction in DMC is achieved. These challenges include:

  • Factors contributing to DMC have still not been identified in a number of States. Although a majority of states have implemented strategies to address DMC, many states have yet to identify the factors contributing to DMC in their communities. This is primarily because they have been unable to complete quality assessment research, a task that requires not only high levels of data collection and analysis skills but also an in-depth conceptual understanding of complex DMC issues.
  • Incomplete and inconsistent data systems hinder DMC efforts. Incomplete and inconsistent data systems constitute another important barrier to DMC assessment and monitoring in many states. Some states have recognized a need to enhance juvenile justice information systems but have improved little to date.
  • Evaluation of DMC efforts and monitoring of DMC trends should be ongoing. Ongoing and comprehensive data collection to monitor DMC rates provides valuable feedback on the effectiveness of a state's overall strategy to reduce DMC over time. Evaluation of intervention activities yields information about whether a specific intervention is working. The state can then examine which elements of the strategy made a difference. On the other hand, where DMC rates persist or increase further, careful study can lead to appropriate modifications or new intervention strategies. Although many states recognize the need to conduct an ongoing evaluation of DMC efforts to monitor trends, many states have not done so, in part because of the data problems described above.
  • Reducing DMC requires systems change as well as programmatic components. Although the majority of states commonly recognize that multiple factors at different decision points contribute DMC, they have primarily invested in delinquency prevention and intervention programs that focus on minority youth, their families, and communities. System change – efforts to address the factors within the juvenile justice system that contribute to DMC – is also necessary as specified in the JJDP Act of 2002 Section 223(a)(22). As part of efforts to institute a cultural competency model, cultural sensitivity training for personnel involved in the juvenile justice system and increasing cultural diversity among staff should be systematically provided, enhanced, and monitored. Similarly, systematic training in the use of standardized screening instruments is necessary to achieve maximum objectivity in decision-making.
  • Mechanisms to assess and respond to DMC issues need to be institutionalized. DMC is a pervasive and deeply entrenched social phenomenon that requires multi-faceted, comprehensive efforts over a long period of time. Factors such as frequent staff turnover, competing priorities and the complex nature of the issues affecting DMC can impede these efforts. To achieve focus and consistency in reducing DMC, states should establish and institutionalize mechanisms that examine and respond to the factors that contribute to it. At a minimum, state infrastructure should include a state-level DMC coordinator and an effective DMC subcommittee working in partnership to address DMC issues.

North Carolina's DMC Reduction Initiative

In 2002 the North Carolina Governor's Crime Commission hired a full time DMC Coordinator to staff the DMC subcommittee and maintain the state's momentum in developing strategies to reduce minority overrepresentation in the juvenile justice system. North Carolina's overall approach to addressing DMC consisted of the following:

  • Working with four demonstration counties (Guilford, New Hanover, Union, and Forsyth) to provide resources, technical assistance, and ongoing monitoring and evaluation of programs and activities designed to reduce DMC in these jurisdictions;
  • Collaborating with the North Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention in developing an uniform data collection system which will allow for accurate collection of data disaggregated by race; this data is to be collected at the decision points which would allow for an accurate measurement of possible disparities in decision-making;
  • Increasing the awareness of disproportionate minority contact in the juvenile justice system and educating the public, juvenile justice professionals, as well as the full Governor's Crime Commission through conference presentations, development of print materials to be disseminated, and use of technical assistance resources available through the federal government.

Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC) Subcommittee

The Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC) subcommittee was established in 2001. The DMC Subcommittee provides recommendations to the JJPC regarding efforts to reduce the number of minority youth who are disproportionately detained or confined in secure detention, correctional facilities and jails or lockups in relation to their representation in the general population.

The subcommittee makes recommendations to reduce disproportionality in other areas to include school suspension, child maltreatment and substance abuse. The subcommittee is composed of representatives from local law enforcement, the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), the Department of Public Instruction (DPI), the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC), and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

Current subcommittee strategies to address DMC in North Carolina include the following:

  • Implementation of a coordinated plan involving all stakeholders in the juvenile justice system on a demonstration basis in select areas of the state, that will enable the development of “effective practices” to be disseminated throughout other areas of North Carolina following rigorous evaluation;
  • Regular evaluation and monitoring of activities and their outcomes;
  • Raising the awareness of the DMC issue through conference presentations and publications.


Creating awareness and educating the public about DMC issues is still a major priority for the state.  The JJ Specialist and the DMC Committee will continue to educate the community and juvenile justice professionals on the issues surrounding DMC and how the state continues to address them. 

Juvenile Code Subcommittee

The Juvenile Code Subcommittee has looked at the extent to which changes in North Carolina's Juvenile Code could reduce disproportionality on the basis of race. 

Public Awareness

The Public Awareness Subcommittee has worked to raise awareness at the state level where DMC is concerned. 

Useful Tools:

  • OJJDP's DMC website.  Learn about DMC chronology, various publications, State reports, tools, resources, and State (and some local) contacts in efforts to reduce DMC, plus links to other useful DMC-related websites.
  • Proposed Methods in Measuring DMC (a video presentation).
  • DMC Technical Assistance Manual, 3rd edition (to be updated).