UALR earns 525k contract to study minority contact in the criminal justice system

Dr. James Golden

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock Department of Criminal Justice has entered into a seven-year contract worth more than half a million dollars with the Arkansas Department of Human Services Division of Youth Services to assess disproportionate minority contact within the criminal justice system.

“We feel like this project has tremendous policy implications and can make a difference in the lives of these youth,” said Dr. Tusty ten-Bensel, an assistant professor of criminal justice who is in charge of the seven-year $526,374 contract, along with Dr. James Golden, a professor of criminal justice.

The grant will fund two doctoral student positions annually for seven years and provide travel stipends.

”This exciting partnership is an excellent example of the contributions social scientists make to a more informed understanding of the complexities of race and justice,” said Lisa Bond-Maupin, dean of the College of Social Sciences and Communication. “The insights and implications of this work will not only serve our state, but it will also provide invaluable opportunities for hands-on learning to our students.”

All states are required to make an annual report to the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. The report includes information on nine points of contact between minority youth and the criminal justice system, including arrests, probation, petitions, transfers, and confinement in a juvenile detention facility.

“We are pleased to partner with UALR as they study this population,” Division of Youth Services Interim Director Betty Guhman said. “These data findings will provide meaningful and better ways to serve our youth by helping craft policies to ensure a bright future for minority youth and all of Arkansas.

Data is collected from the United States Census Bureau, the Arkansas Crime Information Center, the Administrative Office of the Courts, and the Division of Youth Services.

Tusty ten Bensel
Dr. Tusty ten Bensel

The report generates a relative rate index, the rate that minorities, ages 12 to 17, are disproportionately represented in the juvenile justice system, for each of the 75 counties in Arkansas. The counties with the highest rates are targeted for measures that can reduce the rate of disproportionate minority contact.

“Our work will make an impact in counties that have disproportionate minority contact, because we will be able to identify which counties are in need of assistance in regards to disproportionate minority contact,” ten-Bensel said.

The reports will help the Division of Youth Services make policies based on data-driven evidence, Golden said.

“Changes to the juvenile justice system are not going to happen overnight,” Golden said. “It’s about showing people the actual data, rather than relying on anecdotal evidence.”

In the upper right photo, Dr. James Golden, a UALR professor of criminal justice, is shown. 

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