Relative Rate Indices
Why are these RRIs important to me? ⇑ Top
Relative Rate Indices (RRIs) are calculated to demonstrate the scope and magnitude of the overrepresentation of youth of color in the juvenile justice system.
Overrepresentation and disproportionate minority contact (DMC) refer to the same concept, that a greater proportion of youth of color are involved in the system than would be expected based on the proportion of the group in the general population. An example of overrepresentation: Black youth may make up 12% of the population in one county, yet make up 35% of the referrals to juvenile court.
RRIs suggest to administrators and program managers areas where potential revisions to policy or practice could be implemented that would make the system more equitable for all youth. They also indicate where further investigation of justice system process might be warranted.
What is a Relative Rate Index and how do you calculate it? ⇑ Top
The RRI compares rates of contact. For example, the population-based rate of minority contact with the system is the number of contacts divided by the population for a specific minority group. A similar rate is calculated for White youth. The minority rate is then divided by the White rate, which results in a number. If the number is less than 1, then the minority group has a lesser chance of contact with the juvenile justice system than White youth, and if it is greater than 1, there is a greater chance that minority youth will come in contact with the justice system. For example, an RRI of 2.5 is interpreted to mean that members of a particular minority group come in contact with the juvenile justice system two and one-half times more often than White youth. Conversely, a RRI of 0.4 means that members of this minority group comes in contact with the juvenile justice system two and one-half times less often than White youth. It is important to note that values less than 1 are interpreted at 1 divided by the RRI value.
For example, in 2011 the RRI for diversion agreements for all minority youth was 0.78. This is interpreted that compared to White youth, youth of color are 28% less likely (1 / 0.78 = 1.28) to have a diversion agreement.
The relative rate index is a commonly used metric nationally. RRIs are designed to be comparable across sites, no matter the size of the jurisdiction, similar to the way percentages are used. The RRI is represented as a number, and is calculated for each minority group (Asian/Pacific Islander, American Indian/Alaska Native, Black and Hispanic). Figure1 represents the calculation visually.
For the tables presented here, RRIs are calculated at eight standard decision points in the system in order to identify places where overrepresentation may occur:
- Referral to Court
- Referrals with an offense category of B+ or higher
- Referrals with a diversion agreement
- Petitioned referrals
- Adjudicated cases
- Adjudicated cases with a JRA disposition
- Cases waived to adult court
Figure 1: Relative Rate Index Formula
Where did you get the data for the tables? ⇑ Top
Arrest data was requested from the Washington Association of Police Chiefs and Sheriff's (WASPC). All other data were extracted from Washington State's Judicial Information System (JIS) data warehouse.
Currently, the Center is unable to get consistent data on detention. Because overrepresentation in detention is the reason that DMC became a national issue and the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) came to be, it is particularly important to the Center to build the detention data warehouse in JCS. An effort to work with the courts to improve the availability and quality of detention data is underway.
Is the data reliable? ⇑ Top
There is room for improvement in data quality. There are some fundamental problems with the way that race and ethnicity data is collected in the state system, and there are large portions of data (particularly ethnicity data) that are coded "unknown", which means we are only reporting on a subset of the possible population of youth of color. Analysis the Center has conducted on the court records designed to identify mis-coded Hispanic youth suggest that approximately 10% of youth who are classified as unknown ethnicity should indeed be coded as Hispanic.
The RRI tables presented here mark the first step in identifying the scope and magnitude of DMC in Washington's courts. The Center plans to provide additional information about steps in the process that are not usually included in the national data, and to implement statistical controls so that offending history and severity of offense are taken into account when comparing youth.
The Center has developed a Best Practice document for courts to inform data collection practices, and is working with the Superior Court Judges Association and the Washington Juvenile Court Administrators to adapt the proposed best practices to fit the information needs of Washington's courts. The Center is working with AOC Information Services staff to prepare monthly BOXI reports that will assist court-level data managers to identify records with missing race-ethnicity codes so that records can be cleaned. A training webinar will be developed to assist in training staff doing data entry. Additionally, the Center is working with the courts and the Information Technology Governance process to improve the way race and ethnicity data are collected, by adding race codes permitting youth to self-identify as multi-racial. Taken together, these steps should lead to a better ability of courts to analyze and understand racial and ethnic disproportionality.
Additional Resources on the Relative Rate Index: ⇑ Top
Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Implementing the Relative Rate Index Calculation.
Feyerherm, Snyder & Villarruel. Identification and Monitoring.