Disproportionate Minority Contact Assessment in NH
Date: September 23rd, 2013
Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC) is a measure of racial disparity among juvenile offenders in the juvenile justice system. DMC refers to the overrepresentation of racial and ethnic minorities at all points in that system, from arrest to referrals, adjudication, diversion, detention, confinement, and finally movement into the adult court and adult corrections systems.
Our earlier identification analysis indicated that DMC does exist in the New Hampshire juvenile justice system. However, we noted that there are significant hurdles, both in terms of data reliability and statistical precision, in calculating trustworthy DMC measurements in New Hampshire, particularly outside of the state’s larger municipalities.
In this assessment analysis, we examine the likely causes of DMC in New Hampshire’s juvenile justice system. We find that disproportionate treatment of minority juveniles is at its highest at the first point of contact (arrest). While indirect effects and misinterpretation of cultural differences could explain DMC in New Hampshire, procedures and policy could also contribute to differential treatment of minorities.
An online survey of New Hampshire juvenile justice stakeholders revealed that most believe that indirect effects in high-minority neighborhoods—such as reduced educational opportunities, low income, high unemployment, and drug-infested neighborhoods—placed minority youth at a higher risk of involvement in crime. This observation was echoed in interviews with judges and community leaders. While this qualitative research measured the attitudes of stakeholders in the system, it does not represent the perspectives of everyone affected, including families and juveniles themselves.
In order to truly assess and disentangle exactly what causes DMC in New Hampshire, a statistical, multivariate data analysis would have to be performed. That analysis could not be accomplished due to the lack of available data. But in the absence of these data, key informant perspectives are valuable in providing instruction, insight, and direction.
New Hampshire suffers the same problem as many smaller, rural states: the lack of a comprehensive database that invites statistical analysis of DMC. Therefore, our most important recommendation addresses improvements in the juvenile justice data collection and analysis.