Pursuant to the Juvenile Crime and Crime Prevention Bill of 1995,
the Missouri Office of State Courts Administrator (OSCA) developed a
comprehensive juvenile offender classification system to help structure key
decisions made by juvenile officers. The system incorporated an actuarial risk
assessment tool, used to classify youth into one of three risk levels based on
the likelihood he/she will become engaged in future delinquent or criminal
behavior. Officers combine results of the risk assessment with offense severity
to formulate disposition and sanction recommendations to give to the courts.
They also complete a needs assessment to help identify treatment needs. If a
juvenile is supervised in the community, the risk level guides the level of
supervision the juvenile officer provides. OSCA staff recently developed a
reassessment for youth on supervision to ensure that the assigned level of
contact and case plan content are appropriate.
Another phase of the crime prevention effort is a legislative mandate to
determine if racial disparities occur in the juvenile justice system.
Specifically, the legislation states that “…juvenile officers and juvenile
courts, shall at least biennially review a random sample of assessments of
children and the disposition of each child’s case to recommend assessment and
disposition equity throughout the state” (211.141.5 RSMo. Supp.1995). Another
section of the legislation states that “Standards, training and assessment forms
. . . shall be developed considering racial disparities in the juvenile justice
system.” (211.326.6 RSMo. Supp.1995). OSCA contracted with the National Council
on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD) to conduct a study that meets these
The purpose of the study was to examine
decision points in the juvenile court process and compare decisions made by the
ethnicity and gender of the youth. The court process covers all decisions to be
made regarding juvenile charges: intake, screening, case processing, and
disposition, both formal and informal.
primary research questions were:
1. Is there
disproportionate representation by ethnicity or gender at any decision point in
the juvenile court process? For example, are minority male youth confined at a
greater rate than White male youth with similar adjudicated offenses and offense
histories? When offense histories are similar, are female youth more likely to
be placed on formal supervision compared to male youth?
2. If there is disproportionate representation of minorities or females,
are there referral or youth characteristics correlated with ethnicity or gender
and are contributing to minority and/or female over-representation at a stage of
the juvenile court process?