About Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC)

Most often, Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC) results from many factors and is present at more than one contact point. For this reason, jurisdictions typically must develop multiple strategies to address DMC and deploy them concurrently at several decision points. This comprehensive, multimodal approach is known as a jurisdictional DMC initiative. In a best-case scenario, a jurisdictional initiative involves the simultaneous implementation of multiple strategies targeting all critical contact points where DMC exists, and is directed at all identified DMC contributing mechanisms. In the field, however—while the majority of jurisdictions recognize that multiple mechanisms at various contact points contribute to DMC—most have, over the years, invested primarily in direct services strategies (Hsia, Bridges, and McHale, 2004). This single-minded focus on the demand side of the DMC issue has led to comparatively little attention being paid to implementing supply-side strategies such as training and technical assistance and systems change approaches. In an effort to broaden the implementation of supply-side strategies, OJJDP encourages jurisdictions, whenever possible, to choose a variety of strategies drawn from the entire spectrum of options rather than concentrating on just one segment of the spectrum (e.g., direct services programs).

The most appropriate strategies for reducing DMC are those that address the specific mechanisms contributing to DMC and target the juvenile justice contact points where the DMC problem exists. For example, if the DMC assessment shows that differential offending is the single most important mechanism contributing to overrepresentation of minority youth at the arrest decision point, strategies should address the disproportionate involvement of minority youth in crime. It would make little sense to implement a strategy to reduce differential handling of youth in detention, where DMC may not exist.

Identifying high-quality programs that can address specific DMC contributing mechanisms in a given community has been one of the most difficult obstacles to developing effective DMC initiatives. The DMC contributing mechanism based conceptual framework used here links each particular mechanism to a particular program component for reducing DMC. Researchers adapted this framework from the risk and protective factor model used in prevention research. The adaptation appears to be a natural extension of the risk and protective factor model because certain factors can increase or decrease the overrepresentation of minority youth in the juvenile justice system, just as risk and protective factors increase or decrease the likelihood of problem behavior.