Combatting Racial Disparity in the Juvenile Justice System with MST

Posted by Lori Cohen, MST Services

Jury duty prompts questions about disproportionate minority contact within system

About 32 million Americans will get called for jury duty this year. Just recently, I was one of the lucky few. The case I was presented with involved a young Hispanic man who allegedly possessed cocaine and a dangerous weapon with the intent to distribute.

The right to an impartial jury is an unalienable right in the United States, written into law by our Founding Fathers. Choosing this jury, however, was especially interesting and relevant to me.JuryDuty.jpg

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Topics: disproportionate minority contact

Baltimore Riots. One factor: Racial Disparity in our Juvenile-Justice System

Posted by Lori Cohen, MST Services

Baltimore burning. Disparity in the justice system. Is there a role for MST?

A young black man in confrontation with police. Another young black man dead. Last summer, it was 17-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. This month, 25-year-old Freddie Gray did not get proper medical attention as he was being transported to a Baltimore police station and later died. Looting and vandalizing broke out in Ferguson. Protests were met with police in riot gear and tear gas. In Baltimore, full-scale rioting erupted following Gray’s funeral.

While violence should not be condoned, it’s easy to see that the frustration of the black community in Baltimore had gone beyond the boiling point. Why?


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Topics: disproportionate minority contact, juvenile justice

Missouri Elementary Schools have Highest Rate of Racial Disparity

Posted by Amie Feick, MA, LPC, MST Supervisor

Missouri School System Ranked #1 For Discipline Disparity

A study by the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at UCLA ranked Missouri top in the nation for disparity in how often black students and white students are suspended for infractions—adding to the ever-growing body of evidence of systemic injustices against the black community. In the 2011-2012 school year, 14.3 percent of black elementary students were suspended at least once. This compares with only 1.8 percent of white students.


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Topics: school to prison pipeline, disproportionate minority contact

“Burning Down the House” A chat with juvenile justice reform advocate Nell Bernstein

Posted by Dr. Gregorio Melendez

Nell Bernstein is a passionate advocate for juvenile-justice reform, author of the widely praised “Burning Down the House: The End of Juvenile Prison” and journalist who was honored with a White House “Champion of Change.” Recently, she talked with MST about a number of topics, including the reaction to the book, the role of race in the juvenile-justice system and how MST and other evidenced-based programs can be part of a comprehensive solution that addresses and changes the behaviors of juvenile offenders.


Bernstein writes in an easy-to-read style that blends facts with first-person accounts that reveal the often brutal and deadly world behind bars. The stories that can be difficult to digest at times and beggar belief at others. It is, in short, a compelling argument in favor of completely rebuilding the juvenile-prison system. When I asked Bernstein if this argument was the purpose behind writing the book, she said she did not embark on the project with the preconceived notion that incarceration was inherently wrong and that “if I had seen something other than a completely counterproductive and destructive institution, then that is what I would have wrote.” But she added that she “had written about criminal justice for years and years, seen kids destroyed by it.”   

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Topics: Juvenile Justice Reform,, disproportionate minority contact, juvenile justice

Racial Disparity in the Juvenile Justice System: MST's Response

Posted by Maureen Kishna

The unrest that started in Ferguson, Mo., after the shooting death in August of an unarmed black 18-year-old by a white policeman continued to roil. It was exacerbated by the killing of another young black in St. Louis again at the hands of a white officer. Hundreds from across the country descended on the two cities to protest with shouts of “Hands Up! Don’t Shoot” and placards proclaiming “Black Lives Matter.” The incidents are reminders of the imbalance in many of our nation’s communities.

120312-national-arrest-handcuffs-police-school-to-prison.jpg.custom1200x675x20Black youths are two times as likely to be arrested as their white counterparts. ProPublica found that black are at 21 percent higher risk of being killed by police than young whites. Disparities exist at nearly every point of the juvenile justice system according to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Department of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP). They are less likely to be diverted, more likely to be sentenced to secure facilities, and even more likely to be transferred to the adult system. Many communities are working to identify what they can do to correct this inequality.

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Topics: Multisystemic Therapy, MST, disproportionate minority contact

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