An examination of factors related to disproportionate minority contact within the juvenile justice system in Baltimore County, Maryland
Disproportionate minority contact, or DMC, has received national attention as a pervasive problem in many juvenile justice systems. Black youth are routinely detained at rates disproportionate to the rates of White youth. This study empirically examined the identification and assessment stages of DMC in Baltimore County at the emergency intake detention point by calculating the rate of disproportionality and exploring the effects of differential risk and differential treatment on the detainment of Black youth. The sample in this study was comprised of youth who committed a crime that mandated a request for emergency detention (N=1663; mean age =14.8, SD=; 1.83; 65% Black). The relative rate indices (RRI) for this study show that Black youth are 3.32 times more likely than White youth to be arrested and 2.12 times more likely than White youth to be detained at emergency intake. Logistic regressions determined that Black youth were at greater risk for two detention-related risk factors, being male and committing more severe crimes. Even after controlling for these risks, Black youth were still 1.95 times more likely than White youth to be detained. A last set of logistic regressions explored the possibility the Black youth were treated differently than White youth by examining the effect of race on detention after controlling for each risk variable. Black youth continued to be 2.44 times more likely to be detained than White youth after controlling for variables such as crime severity, whether the youth had a prior record, and whether the crime resulted in an injury. The inclusion of interaction terms in the logistic regressions did not yield any significant results, suggesting that differential treatment is occurring for Black youth in general rather than for any subgroups of Black youth. These results were presented to local stakeholders and their reactions and feedback were included in this paper. Recommendations, including the improvement of direct youth services, cultural training for all juvenile justice workers, and potential systemic changes, were suggested to local stakeholders to address DMC in Baltimore County.