Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Slammed for New Policy Direction
Date:  07-22-2018

Critic assail OJJDP for implying public safety will be threatened by reducing racial and ethnic disparities (RED)
From Juvenile Justice information Exchange:

The W. Haywood Burns Institute (BI) strongly rejects the disturbing and dangerous new policy direction of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) that insinuates that public safety is threatened by efforts to reduce racial and ethnic disparities (RED). This misunderstanding of the purpose and outcome of RED work is the culmination of months of changes at OJJDP that unmask this administration’s egregious disregard of the gravity and pervasiveness of RED and the harmful and lifelong effects on youth of color and their communities.

Disparities conflated with being soft on crime

At the June 2018 Coalition for Juvenile Justice Conference, OJJDP Administrator Caren Harp gave a presentation that said the OJJDP is “committed to reducing [Disproportionate Minority Contact] while maintaining public safety.” This stance is reiterated in an OJJDP statement dated June 28. The statement implies that addressing RED in youth justice — or Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC), an antiquated and, in many communities, erroneous term that the OJJDP still utilizes — puts public safety at risk.

BI firmly rejects the inference that efforts to halt the disproportionality of youth of color who are entangled in the justice system could in any way threaten public safety. In truth, public safety is eroded when youth of color are excessively and unnecessarily exposed to and harmed by the justice system for normal adolescent behavior, behavior for which their white counterparts receive less harsh treatment and discipline. When youth engage in a system wherein they are removed from their families, exposed to punitive treatment and lost opportunities during their formative adolescent years to build positive relationships within their communities, that’s when we have failed to provide the safety that OJJDP claims it is pursuing.

Who are we protecting, and from what? BI adamantly asserts that youth of color need protection from a system wherein one group of people are overtly and consistently overrepresented. Youth of color need safety from historical and structural manifestations of racism that continue to inform our youth justice systems today. Youth of color, in short, deserve respect and fair treatment, and an opportunity for a safe life. This is the purpose of RED work — and should be at the center of OJJDP’s agenda. Continue reading >>>