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.

If you are interested in reading more about federal juvenile justice and child welfare policy, read our special issue “Kids on the Hill” absolutely free. Just hit this LINK

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