Evaluation of the Dallas County Diversion Male Court

AN ALTERNATIVE TO JUVENILE PROBATION

Problem

Racial and ethnic minority youth are disproportionately represented in the juvenile justice system. This raises concerns about fairness and legitimacy of the system.

Background

Racial disparities exist at every stage of the juvenile justice system. Minority youth make up 17% of the overall youth population, but account for 31% of juvenile arrests. They are also less likely to be diverted and more likely to be detained or transferred to adult court compared to white youth. These disparities have persisted despite significant declines in juvenile crime rates since the 1990s. Researchers have pointed to biased policing practices, sentencing policies, and the War on Drugs as drivers of disproportionate minority contact in the system. The overrepresentation of minority youth in detention and incarceration has profound impacts on their future outcomes.

Policy Response

The Dallas County Juvenile Justice Department implemented the Diversion Male Court, a pre-adjudication program focused on Black and Hispanic male juvenile offenders. The goal is to reduce disproportionate minority contact in the system.

 

Key Takeaways

  • DMC participants were significantly less likely to use drugs/alcohol or be rearrested than the comparison group.
  • For both groups, older youth were more likely to use substances.
  • The DMC program appears to reduce substance use and recidivism for minority male youth in the juvenile justice system.