ORS: Dashboard-Racial and Ethnic Disparity

The Office of Research and Statistics (ORS) provides information and measures of racial and ethnic disparity in the criminal justice system. Racial and ethnic disparity may be represented by such terms as, minority over-representation (MOR) or disproportionate minority contact (DMC). The page sections below offer basic disparity-related definitions, research, and resources.

Efforts within the Division of Criminal Justice to report the status of disparity concerns in Colorado occur within ORS and within the Office of Juvenile and Justice Assistance (OAJJA). Additional information offered by OAJJA may be found at Racial and Ethnic Disparities in the Juvenile Justice System. ORS provides data displays ("dashboards") and/or reports on disparity in the criminal justice system based on the following: 

  • CLEAR Act. Disparity in the adult and juvenile justice systems - Related to Colorado General Assembly mandates within the Community Law Enforcement Action Reporting (CLEAR) Act of 2015 [see 24-33.5-518, C.R.S.; Colorado Senate Bill 2015-185].

  • JJDP Act. Disparity in the juvenile justice system - Related to Congressional mandates within the Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention (JJDP) Act of 1974 [see original, Pub. L. 93-415 with re-authorizations in 1977, 1980, 1984, 1988, 1992, 2002, & 2018 (Pub. L. 115-385)].

The following interactive dashboards provide background on the data and displays related to these two mandates.  

Interactive Data Dashboards

Racial/Ethnic Disparity (CLEAR Act)  Juvenile MOR (JJDP Act)



According to the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of (2002), "minority populations" are defined as American Indian, Alaskan Native, Asian, Black or African American, Hispanic or Latino and Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander.

DMC: Disproportionate Minority Contact
The size of the minority population at various points in the juvenile justice system that is disproportionate to that groups portion of the general population. Includes any contact from arrest to confinement and all the decision points in between.

MOR: Minority Over-Representation
Over-representation of minority youth in the juvenile justice system relative to the proportion of the minority youth in the general population.

Relative Rate Index Method
A calculation method, chosen by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), to identify where disproportionate minority contact may exist in the juvenile justice system. The relative rate index (RRI)represents the relative volume of minority juveniles to the volume of majority juveniles (adjusted by population) at stages in the juvenile justice system. For additional background on the calculation method, see this excerpt, "Implementing the Relative Rate Index Calculation," from the Disproportionate Minority Contact Technical Assistance Manual (2009) developed by the National Training and Technical Assistance Center.

RRI formula

What the RRI Indicates

  • The Relative Rate Index compares the relative rate of activity at each major stage of the juvenile justice system of minority youth to that of white youth.
  • The involvement rate is adjusted by population totals. In other words, the subgroups are equated by determining how many individuals per 1000 would be involved at that point in the system. This adjustment allows group members with disparate representation in the total population to be compared directly. If all groups were exactly the same size in the total population, the adjustment would not be necessary.
  • The RRI can be calculated at each decision point in the criminal justice system. The calculation at any particular point must reference the group sizes at the previous decision point. For example, an RRI reported at the decision point when charges are filed would be based on the totals of the groups at the previous step, for example, the arrest decision point.
  • The RRI provides a single index number that indicates the extent to which the rate of that activity differs for minority and white youth.
    • A rate of 1.0 means that members of the two groups are involved at the same rate at that point in the system.
      For example, if the RRI=1.0 then the relative rate of, for example, arrests comparing a minority group to the white group would indicate that one minority group member is arrested for every one arrest of a white member.
    • A rate above 1.0 means that that minority group members are more involved than white members at that point in the system.
      For example, if the RRI=2.0 then the relative rate of, for example, arrests comparing a minority group to the white group would indicate that two minority group members are arrested for every one arrest of a white member.
    • A rate below 1.0 means that minority group members are less involved than white members at that point in the system.
      For example, if the RRI=0.50 then the relative rate of, for example, arrests comparing a minority group to the white group would indicate that one minority group member is arrested for every two white members.

Research has identified a variety of driving factors that contribute to the existence of disproportionate minority contact of minority youth with the criminal justice system. Below are several factors and the research related to the factor (The full reference for each of the research citations is appended at the end of this section).

System bias

  • Minority youth are more likely to be arrested and detained in a secure facility (Snyder & Sickmund, 1999; Hsia, Bridges, & McHale, 2004).
  • Detention for the purpose of accessing services (Cahn, 2006; Kempf-Leonard, 2007).

Socioeconomic status and family structure 
(Winters, Dean, Hirschel, & Brame, 1996; Devine, Coolbaugh & Jenkins, 1998)

  • Inner city residence
  • Broken families/Single parent households
  • Welfare income/Low socioeconomic status
    Lack of parental supervision due to parents work schedule (prevents supervision which may look bad to the court, increasing the likelihood of confinement.
  • Criminality in the family

Lack of adequate resources 
(Devine, Coolbaugh & Jenkins, 1998)

  • Lack of adequate diversion programs for minority juveniles
  • Lack of culturally appropriate juvenile services
  • Lack of cultural understanding within juvenile justice system

Educational system failures 
(Devine, Coolbaugh & Jenkins, 1998; Mata, 1997)

  • Inadequate early childhood education
  • Inadequate programs to prevent early dropouts
  • Lack of appropriate cultural education
  • Increased minority truancy, suspensions, and expulsions

Community risk factors

  • Juveniles who live in high risk communities are more likely to be involved in and arrested for criminal activities (Kakar, 2006).

Over-involvement in crime

  • Disproportionate involvement of minority youth in serious and violent crime (Conley, 1994).


Conley, D.J., (1994). Adding color to a Black and White picture: Using qualitative data to explain racial disproportionality in the juvenile justice system. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 31 (2), 135-148.

Devine, P., Coolbaugh, K., & Jenkins, S. (1998). Disproportionate minority confinement: Lessons learned from five states (Juvenile Justice Bulletin, NCJ 173420). Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Mata, J. (1997). Overrepresentation of Hispanic/Latino youth. Washington, D.C.: Coalition for Juvenile Offenders.

Kakar, S. (2006). Understanding the causes of disproportionate minority contact: Results of focus group discussions. Journal of Criminal Justice, 34, 369-381.

Winters, O., Dean, C., Hirschel, D., & Brame, B. (1996). Developing a model program response to the problem of overrepresentation of minorities in the juvenile justice system of the four states. Charlotte: University of North Carolina.

Snyder, H.N., & Sickmund, M. (1999). Minorities in the juvenile justice system. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Hsia, H.M., Bridges, G.S., & McHale, R. (2004). Disproportionate minority confinement 2002 update. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Cahn,E. (2006). How the juvenile justice system reduces life options for minority youth. Washington, D.D.: The Joint Center Health Policy Institute.

Kempf-Leonard, K. (2007). Minority youths and juvenile justice: Disproportionate minority contact after nearly 20 years of reform efforts. Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice, 5, 71-87.



Description & Link(s)

The Brennan Center

Reducing Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Jails: Recommendations for Local Practice

For criminal justice planning committees and interdisciplinary teams addressing disproportionate minority impact, the Brennan Center (at the New York University School of Law) offers a report with guidance on strategies to reduce disparities in local jurisdictions:

Site: https://www.brennancenter.org/publication/reducing-racial-and-ethnic-disparities-jails-recommendations-local-practice/
Report: "Reducing Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Jails: Recommendations for Local Practice" (2015)

Stanford Open Policing Project

New database allows Stanford researchers to find disparities in officers' treatment of minority motorists. (Tom Abate,Stanford News, June 19, 2017)


Website: https://openpolicing.stanford.edu/

The Sentencing Project

Racial Disparities in Youth Commitments and Arrests

CO Division of Criminal Justice: Office of Research & StatisticsMinority Over-Representation in the Criminal Justice System (2010)
 A literature review of MOR research (Appendix D from the October 2010 CCJJ report).
 Crime and Justice in Colorado: 2008-1010
  A comprehensive, but non-technical, presentation of data and information on the criminal (adult) and juvenile justice systems in Colorado.
Colorado Department of CorrectionsMinority Overrepresentation in Colorado's Criminal Justice System: An Interagency Report to the Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice (2010)
 A report that compiles a variety of information and data on the general topic of minority over-representation (MOR), MOR in Colorado, and evidence-based suggestions and recommendations to reduce MOR.
Office of Juvenile Justice and
Delinquency Prevention
National Disproportionate Minority Contact Databook
 The DMC "...Databook is designed to give users an understanding of the Relative Rate Index (RRI) and an assessment of the levels of disproportionate minority contact at various stages of juvenile justice system processing at the national level."
 OJJDP Literature Review: Disproportionate Minority Contact (2014)
  "OJJDP Model Programs Guide Literature Reviews provide practitioners and policymakers with relevant research and evaluations for several youth-related topics and programs." This literature review includes section on definitions, federal legislation, factors contributing to DMC, measuring DMC, empirical studies of DMC, efforts to address DMC, and outcome evidence. 
 The OJJDP Evidenced-based Programs
  "The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) encourages the use of evidence-based programs and practices. Evidence-based programs and practices generally have one or more rigorous outcome evaluations that demonstrated effectiveness by measuring the relationship between the program and its intended outcome (s). This includes measuring the direction and size of a change in outcome and the extent to which a change may be attributed to the activity or intervention. The methodology of the evaluation should rule out, to the extent possible, alternative explanations for the documented change."
 DMC Technical Assistance Manual (2009)
"This online manual provides detailed guidance on DMC identification and monitoring, assessment, intervention, and evaluation."
The full version of the manual may be found here...
 Fact Sheet: In Focus - Disproportionate Minority Contact (2012)
  An OJJDP brief fact sheet on disproportionate minority contact.
 Disproportionate Minority Contact in the Juvenile Justice System: A Study of Differential Minority Arrest/Referral to Court in Three Cities (2007)
  "This report uses information from three community studies of delinquency to examine disproportionate minority contact (DMC) and factors that might affect DMC at the police contact/court referral level."

See additional resources on the OJJDP Causes and Correlates of Delinquency Program:
Evident Change 
(formerly The National Council on Crime and Delinquency)
Created Equal: Racial and Ethnic Disparities in the US Criminal Justice System(2009)
 "NCCD uses federal and state data to catalog racial and ethnic disparities at each stage of the justice system, including arrest, court processing, jails and prisons, probation and parole, and the death penalty. "
(See also, Evident Change)
The Sentencing ProjectThe Changing Racial Dynamics of Women's Incarceration (2013)
  "This report first describes trends in incarceration for the first decade of the century, and contrasts this with patterns of the previous decade. We then assess the extent of change in the race and gender dynamics of incarceration over the past decade, and suggest factors which may be contributing to these trends."
Burns InstituteThe Burns Institute for Juvenile Justice Fairness and Equity
  "The W. Haywood Burns Institute (BI) is a San Francisco-based national nonprofit. It is a leading organization in the field of juvenile justice and ethnic and racial disparities reduction, which helps to protect and improve the lives of youth of color and poor youth by promoting and ensuring fairness and equity in youth-serving systems across the country."
 Burns Institute: State by State Profiles: Colorado
American Civil Liberties UnionACLU: Race and Criminal Justice
  General information on laws, policies, and practices regarding racial disparity in the criminal justice system.
Child Welfare League of AmericaDisproportionality
  Addresses issues around "[c]hildren of color, belonging to various cultural, ethnic, and racial communities...[who] are disproportionately represented in the child welfare system and frequently experience disparate and inequitable service provision."
National Association of Criminal Defense LawyersCriminal Justice in the 21st Century: Eliminating Racial and Ethnic Disparities in the Criminal Justice System (2013)
(plus 6 other criminal justice and legal organizations) "A critically important and inclusive examination of the profound racial and ethnic disparities in America's criminal justice system, and concrete ways to overcome them. This conference report prepared by Consultant Tanya E. Coke is based upon a multi-day, open and frank discussion among a distinguished group of criminal justice experts - prosecutors, judges, defense attorneys, scholars, community leaders, and formerly incarcerated advocates." (nacdl.org/reports/eliminatedisparity/)

Increasing the diversity of the individuals who work in the criminal justice system is another way to address disparity in the criminal justice system. The following are examples of resources for those who are exploring a career in the criminal justice system: 

LAW SCHOOL...Yes We Can™ Colorado

"LAW SCHOOL…Yes We Can seeks to change this reality for students from communities underrepresented in the legal profession by providing them with the same tools relied upon by students who have more resources at their disposal in their quest to attend law school. In our program’s first two years, we have increased these students’ access to social capital by pairing rising college freshman who want to become lawyers with three attorney mentors, who provide counseling to our students as they trail-blaze through college—often as first-generation college students."

APPA Career Center

Managed by the American Probation and Parole Association (APPA), the Career Center is "committed to bringing you the best job opportunities in the industry, as well as resources to help prepare you for working in the field..."


"At Criminal Justice USA we recognize that while launching a career in criminal justice may start with a dream becoming a successful criminal justice professional requires much more than just a dream. Our mission as Criminal Justice USA is to help aspiring criminal justice students and professionals to find the information and resources required to prepare for and ultimately obtain the criminal justice career of your dreams.

"CriminalJusticeUSA.com is a complete free, non-commercial information site that provides relevant and accurate information on criminal justice careers and criminal justice training. So why put off your dreams any longer? Let CriminalJusticeUSA.com put you in drivers seat!" (See also, PublicServiceCareers.org)


"The National Association for Legal Career Professionals is a nonprofit educational association established to meet the needs of all participants in the legal employment process (career planning, recruitment and hiring, and professional development of law students and lawyers) for information, coordination and standards. NALP is dedicated to continuously improving career counseling and planning, recruitment and retention, and the professional development of law students, lawyers, and its members."
This site provides information on job opportunities as well as other useful information.
(See also, How to Become a Lawyer)