States face no real federal pressure to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in the juvenile justice system, says a new report from the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences, says the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange. The report calls on the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) to strengthen a core requirement of the 1974 Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act on reducing racial and ethnic disparities in the juvenile justice system.
The law says states must address disproportionate minority contact with the juvenile justice system, but doesn't say they must reduce it. University of Virginia law Prof. Richard Bonnie, co-author of the report, said it calls on OJJDP to require the states to go beyond the “data-collection aspects” and develop specific plans for reducing disparities. “It's much more of an action-oriented approach to this.” He added, “There is just widespread concern about … racial and ethnic disparities in the administration of justice generally and, in particular, in connection with juvenile justice, and I think together with that a considerable level of frustration about why we seem not to be making substantial progress. … It seemed there was a real opportunity here for OJJDP to take a big step forward.”