Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC) is the involvement of youth-of-color in the juvenile justice system at rates that are disproportionate compared to those of White, non-Hispanic youth. 

DMC has been recognized on the national level since 1988, when the issue was presented to Congress by the Coalition for Juvenile Justice. The Office for Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) coordinates DMC action on the national and state levels.

Through examination of multi-year data trends, PCJCC has clearly established that DMC exists in Pima County at  key decision points in the juvenile justice process, including referral (arrest), detention, petition, diversion, adjudication, and disposition.

While these trends have been identified, the factors that result in DMC across the full spectrum of the juvenile justice process are many, and the degree to which each factor contributes to disparate outcomes is unknown. These factors may include personal and institutional biases, social-economic factors, disproportionate rates of crime, and more. 

In reality, there is neither a single cause nor a single solution to DMC.  Acknowledging this, PCJCC, in collaboration with its partners, has accepted a shared responsibility in creating strategies to identify and address the factors that result in DMC.

In 2004, PCJCC collaborated with James Bell from the W. Haywood Burns Institute to begin the intentional work of reducing DMC and eliminating disparities.  A detailed chronology of the Court’s Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI), including its DMC work, describes these efforts to present.

Today, the Pima County DMC Intervention Model Project, an intensive, collaborative effort undertaken by the Court and its partners, continues to address DMC through active engagement, data driven decisions, intentional and strategic analysis, committed leadership, and informed staff.  These efforts promote the Court’s emphasis on equity, fairness, and community safety for all youth and families in Pima County.

What is the DMC Intervention Model Project?

The DMC Intervention Model Project, funded by the Arizona Governor’s Office for Children, Youth and Families, is a six-year effort, on the part of PCJCC and its partners, to identify and address causes of DMC and disparity in Pima County. Pima County DMC Intervention Model Project partners include:

Chicanos por la Causa
Community Partnership of Southern Arizona
Continental Elementary School District
Diocese of Tucson, Catholic Schools
Division of Children, Youth and Families—formerly CPS
Lutheran Social Services
Office of the Pima County School Superintendent
Pima County Attorney’s Office
Pima County Board of Supervisors
Pima County Juvenile Justice Task Force on Racial & Ethnic Disparities
Pima County Public Defender’s Office
Pima Prevention Partnership
Sunnyside Unified School District
Tucson Black Chamber of Commerce
Tucson Indian Center
Tucson Police Department
Tucson Unified School District
Tucson Urban League
University of Arizona
Vail Unified School District

In Phase I of the project (2010-12), data from key decision points in the juvenile justice system were studied to determine trends in DMC and the magnitude of DMC gaps over time. Workgroups then convened to discuss the factors that contribute to DMC at each decision point. Based on these discussions, 89 recommendations were developed. More details on Phase I of the project is available in the Phase I Workgroup Reports.

Phase II of the project (2012-present) is focused on implementation of workgroup recommendations and evaluation of the project, including its impacts on DMC. To date, project accomplishments include:

  • Development of guidelines for schools to use to determine when to contact law enforcement for student violations
  • Increased capacity of PCJCC to train on and reinforce Motivational Interviewing practice among staff
  • Initiation of a mentoring program targeting the most vulnerable court-involved youth
  • Revision of court letters with emphasis on clarity and readability
  • Assurance of interpretation services for all languages, including translation of court communication materials into Spanish
  • Publications of brochures on the Court’s Diversion and Legal Clinic options
  • Development of data collection/analysis capabilities at key decision points
  • Distribution of monthly reports to decision makers