Racial and Ethnic Disparities (RED)

According to the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), racial and ethnic disparities (RED) refer to the disproportionate number of minority youth who have contact with the juvenile justice system. The federal Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) of 1974 defined RED as "minority youth populations [being] involved at a decision point in the juvenile justice system at disproportionately higher rates than non-minority youth.” 

Racial and ethnic disparities exist if a specific minority group’s rate of contact at a particular point in the juvenile justice system is different than the rate of contact for non-Hispanic whites or other minority groups.

North Carolina receives federal funding in support of programs designed to address RED, as well as provide valuable services to at-risk youth and families. These funds are managed by the Governor’s Crime Commission, which annually provides funding to local and state organizations to support efforts to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in the juvenile justice system. The federal government also provides training and technical assistance to improve delinquency prevention and juvenile justice efforts. 

The Division of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention has implemented policies, strategies and best practices to reduce RED in the system. A cross-section of DJJDP professionals is involved in examining practices, including disaggregation of data collection by race and ethnicity, establishing cultural competency training, and increasing alternatives to detention. Collaboration with juvenile court counselors and other juvenile justice professionals, as well as establishing relationships with key stakeholders at each decision point in the juvenile justice process (including detention), is essential.

Decreasing the number of youths unnecessarily or inappropriately detained reduces disproportionate minority confinement and contact with the juvenile justice system. The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention division supports efforts by local grant recipients with initiatives that provide opportunities for reducing RED. Other strategies to target RED consist of partnering with Juvenile Crime Prevention Councils (JCPC) and juvenile justice professionals who provide education and awareness to law enforcement, school resource officers, stakeholders and the public. RED is effectively addressed by implementing and sustaining policies, practices, procedures and multipronged intervention strategies to ensure equal treatment of all youth.

Racial and Ethnic Disparities Training 

DJJDP has provided racial and ethnic disparities education, training and awareness, including the use of videoconferencing technology when necessary.

In the past couple of years, DJJDP accomplished the following: 

  • Established or reestablished five RED committees in Wake, Lenoir, Wayne, Forsyth and Pitt counties to address ways to improve racial equity for youth.  
  • Court Services District 25 (Burke, Caldwell and Catawba counties) established a Diversity Awareness and Staff Development Committee. 
  • Juvenile Minority Sensitivity Training (JMST) and testing was transferred to a virtual platform to ensure staff was able to complete this mandated training. 
  • Provided virtual JMST training and testing to 351 Court Services and other Juvenile Justice staff who are required to complete the annual training.
  • RED presentations/training were provided to the following:
    -- Governor’s Crime Commission JJ Planning Committee members;
    -- GCC RED Subcommittee;
    -- Western Region Juvenile Justice Substance Abuse Mental Health Partnerships quarterly meeting;
    -- DJJDP executive management team; and 
    -- More than 150 JCPC members, Court Services staff, and county government officials.

History of RED

In 1974, to address inconsistencies and improve outcomes for youth and community safety, Congress passed the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act and changed the way states approached juvenile justice. States like North Carolina that participate in the JJDPA and meet compliance requirements are eligible for federal funding through grants administered by OJJDP.  Participation in the JJDPA links North Carolina with federal regulations addressing racial and ethnic disparities in the state juvenile justice system.    

On Dec. 21, 2018, the Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2018 was signed into law, amending the JJDPA after years of collaborative efforts among juvenile justice organizations and advocates across the United States. The JJRA changed the JJDPA core requirement from “disproportionate minority contact” to “racial and ethnic disparities.” Pursuant to the JJDPA, states and territories must ”implement policy, practice, and system improvement strategies at the state, territorial, local, and tribal levels, as applicable, to identify and reduce racial and ethnic disparities among youth who come into contact with the juvenile justice system, without establishing or requiring numerical standards or quotas.”

The JJDP Act has four core requirements:

  1. Deinstitutionalization of Status Offenders;
  2. Sight and Sound Separation;
  3. Adult Jail and Lockup Removal; and 
  4. Identify and Reduce Racial and Ethnic Disparities.

For additional information on racial and ethnic disparities in juvenile justice, please contact Racial & Ethnic Disparities Coordinator Crystal Wynn-Lewis at 919-324-6403.


Governor's Crime Commission Informational Primer