[Disproportionate minority contact (DMC) remains a serious problem in many communities. But getting broad support to address it can be a problem. In response, juvenile justice advocates in Connecticut have developed JUST.START, an excellent, accessible website and campaign on the topic. How it came about is the focus the interview below, which is reposted with permission from The CJJ e-Monitor, the newsletter of The Coalition for Juvenile Justice (CJJ). --Ed.]
Earlier this month, CJJ caught up with Christine Rapillo, Esq., a member of the Connecticut Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee (JJAC, the Connecticut State Advisory Group), to discuss the launch of JUST.START, a new, JJAC-supported website and educational campaign that aims to promote racial and ethnic fairness in Connecticut’s juvenile justice system.
In addition to her SAG membership, Attorney Rapillo is Chair of the Connecticut Juvenile Training School Advisory Committee, and co-chairs the Steering Committee for the Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance (CTJJA), where she takes part in the efforts to raise Connecticut’s jurisdictional age from 16 to 18. She is Director of Juvenile Delinquency Defense for the Connecticut Office of the Chief Public Defender, previously served as the supervisor of the Hartford Juvenile Court Public Defender’s Office for 12 years, and has practiced in adult felony trial courts in New Haven and New Britain.
Q. What is the history of disproportionate minority contact (DMC) in Connecticut? Are there issues that are unique to the state?
A. Connecticut is a relatively small state and has a statewide juvenile justice system, as opposed to a county system, as is the case in larger states. This fact made it easier for us to identify and analyze DMC, and we also hope that it will help us more readily bring about statewide change that will eliminate DMC.
Q. What is the purpose of the JUST.START website?
A. So often, states conduct studies, find DMC and yet can’t convince anyone DMC is real. The purpose of the website and public campaign is to raise public awareness. Our goal is to explain what DMC is and what we’re doing to eliminate it in an easy-to-understand, non-jargon, non-judgmental way.