Research Goals and Objectives: Through several Phase I Identification studies, it is clear that minority youth overrepresentation exists in the Alaska juvenile justice system. Generally speaking, Alaska Native and African American youths are overrepresented at most decision points within the juvenile justice system. It is clear, however, that the greatest source of disproportionate minority contact occurs at the referral stage.
The purpose of this study is to explain why disproportionate minority contact (DMC) occurs (rather than to simply document its existence). Our strategy to explain disproportionate minority contact consists of both quantitative and qualitative analyses of disparities in juvenile delinquency referrals and disparities that occur within the juvenile justice system. More specifically, we will examine the causes of disparities in juvenile delinquency referrals to the juvenile justice system. Subsequently, we will examine whether disparities that occur within the juvenile justice system are caused by disparities in referrals, legal variables, and extralegal variables.
Proposed Research Design and Methodology: Quantitative analyses of disparities in juvenile delinquency referrals will consist primarily of spatial analyses. These spatial analyses will identify and map geographical 'hot spots' of disproportionate minority contact. These are geographical areas such as neighborhoods that generate high DMC levels. To explain why these neighborhoods have high DMC levels, we will use qualitative analyses that will include police ride-alongs, structured surveys and semi-structured interviews with police officers and school officials, and focus groups with community residents, organizations, and youths. To further explain why these neighborhoods have high minority referral indices, we will also conduct quantitative analyses that will explore whether neighborhood-level variables (e.g., availability of youth services) are related to disproportionate minority contact.
Quantitative analyses of disparities within the juvenile justice system will examine the extent to which these disparities are explained by previous disparities in juvenile delinquency referrals, legal variables, and extralegal variables. These analyses will be supplemented with qualitative analyses consisting of a content analysis of case files and structured surveys, semi-structured interviews, and focus groups with juvenile justice staff, juvenile court personnel, and youths.
Our research will generate a detailed understanding of why disproportionate minority contact occurs in the Alaska juvenile justice system. In addition, our research will inform policy making by including specific recommendations to reduce the level of disproportionate minority contact in the Alaska juvenile justice system. In the end, the State of Alaska will be ready to intervene to reduce disproportionate minority contact.