Disproportionate Minority Contact in North Carolina

By Eric J. Zogry 

In June 2019, Disproportionate Minority Contact in North Carolina: An Assessment Study by Stan Orchowsky, Ph.D., Cambiare Consulting and Michael J. Leiber, Ph.D. and Chae M. Jaynes, Ph.D., University of South Florida, was released through a grant from the North Carolina Governor’s Crime Commission. This was the first statewide study on disproportionate minority contact (DMC) in the juvenile justice system since 2013.

The goal of the assessment study was to determine whether, where and why DMC exists in North Carolina’s juvenile justice system. The analysis is based on using the Relative Rate Index, or “RRI.” The RRI is the ratio of the proportion of minority youth at a given stage to the proportion of white youth at that same stage. If both groups are being processed at the same rate, then the RRI would be equal to 1. RRIs above 1 indicate disproportionate minority contact at that stage of the system.

DPS provided the five most recent years of RRI data (FY14-FY18) for all localities in the state from the North Carolina Juvenile Online Information Network (NC-JOIN). Analysis of RRIs for FY18 showed that RRIs were highest for complaints received, detention center admissions, and juveniles confined to youth development centers, or YDCs. For these three stages RRIs for black youth were higher than for other minority groups, with the differences being particularly notable for complaints received and juveniles confined. Overall, the RRI analyses suggest that DMC was a problem at the state level in FY18, particularly for complaints received and confinement in YDCs for black youth and, to a lesser degree, for black youth confined in secure detention.

The study also included a closer view at certain counties with higher RRIs, which tended to be but do not always include large, urban areas. Another highlight of the report was its comparison to the 2013 study, indicating some similarities and differences to the previous findings. Finally, the report provided twelve distinct recommendations on how to improve data gathering as well as address the overrepresentation found in the report.

For more information, you can find the report here.