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Innovation Brief: Reducing Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Pennsylvania

Published Nov 30, 2012, Dana Shoenberg, Center for Children’s Law and Policy

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Across the United States, youth of color are disproportionately represented at every stage of the juvenile justice system, with the greatest disparities at the deepest end of the system. Although every state is required to address racial and ethnic disparities as a condition of receiving federal juvenile justice funds, few places have gotten beyond studying the problem. In Pennsylvania, with support from the Models for Change initiative, several jurisdictions took the next steps and implemented effective, data-driven reforms to reduce disparities. These reforms included improved data gathering and analysis, increased cultural competence, implementation of objective screening instruments, development of alternatives to detention and out-of-home placement, improved probation practices, work with the faith-based community, and training and collaboration with law enforcement.

This brief is one in a series describing new knowledge and innovations emerging from Models for Change, a multi-state juvenile justice initiative. Models for Change is accelerating movement toward a more effective, fair, and developmentally sound juvenile justice system by creating replicable models that protect community safety, use resources wisely, and improve outcomes for youths. The briefs are intended to inform professionals in juvenile justice and related fields, and to contribute to a new national wave of juvenile justice reform.


Supported by

Models for Change was a juvenile justice systems reform initiative supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, website operated by Justice Policy Institute.