The OJJDP Racial Disparities Pass Might Continue

As we reported last week, the Justice Department’s Inspector General exposed the fact that, from 2013 to 2016, the agency’s juvenile justice division – the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) – was willfully ignoring compliance standards on disproportionate minority contact (DMC), failing to penalize states that were not doing enough to identify and assess racial disparities in their juvenile justice systems.

Based on the very little OJJDP will say to Youth Services Insider, the pass might live on into next year.

Here’s the deal: This saga began when OJJDP’s coordinator on DMC, Andrea Coleman, informed the department’s Office of General Counsel via e-mail that the standards for DMC compliance were being measured unevenly by various OJJDP state representatives. The pass was essentially a stop-gap solution while the agency finalized a guideline called the Compliance Determination Assessment Instrument (CDAI).

Coleman developed the CDAI herself out of frustration with what she saw as inconsistent evaluation of DMC by OJJDP’s state representatives; some of whom, she told the IG, were not adequately trained to make compliance determinations on this requirement. The CDAI was a way to centralize and simplify the criteria that should be used to make DMC determinations.

So the question is whether CDAI is done, and are we through with the “Pass” era? YSI asked this of OJJDP. The answer, to the first part, is no.

“The Compliance Determination Assessment Instrument (CDAI) is under review by OJJDP,” according to Jim Goodwin, a public affairs specialist for the agency.

As the IG report makes clear, the CDAI has been subject to rounds of input from statisticians, states, lawyers and other leaders at OJJDP. Which makes the report’s explanation of the holdup on finalization all the more sad:

Several witnesses … told us that there were deeply rooted personal and professional tensions among staff, including compliance analysts and supervisors, that have made consensus on many issues, including the content of the CDAI, very difficult to achieve.

Good stuff!

Unless CDAI is finalized soon, the agency is either going to have to keep waiving noncompliance on DMC, or start making determinations without the CDAI again. Our guess is the former, because there is no an Inspector General’s report that documents the sense of Justice Department counsel that, after Coleman came forward with her opinion, it could not defend an appeal by any state that contested a finding of noncompliance.

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John Kelly
About John Kelly 1161 Articles
John Kelly is editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change.

1 Comment

  1. Virtually all federal government activities regarding racial differences in criminal justice outcomes have been based on the belief that generally reducing adverse criminal justice outcomes will tend to reduce (a) relative racial differences in rates of experiencing the outcomes and (b) the proportions racial minorities make up of persons experiencing the outcomes. In fact, generally reducing an adverse outcome tends to increase both (a) and (b) as to the outcome. See references below.

    Currently the Department of Justice does not even know that its understanding of the effects of reducing adverse criminal justice outcomes on the measures it employs is the opposite of reality. It thus has a long way to go before it understands these issues well enough to conclude that one state is complying with its DMC obligations while another is not.

    1. “The Pernicious Misunderstanding of Effects or Policies on Racial Differences in Criminal Justice Outcomes,” Federalist Society Blog (Oct. 12, 2017)
    2. “The Government’s Uncertain Path to Numeracy,” Federalist Society Blog (July 21, 2017)
    3. “Things DoJ doesn’t know about racial disparities in Ferguson,” The Hill (Feb. 22, 2016)
    4. “Race and Mortality Revisited,” Society (July/Aug. 2014)
    5. “The Mismeasure of Discrimination,” Faculty Workshop, University of Kansas School of Law (Sept. 20, 2013)
    6. Letter to Department of Justice (Apr. 13, 2017),_2017_.pdf

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