The Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission and the Illinois Models for Change Initiative are pleased to present these Guidelines for Collecting and Recording the Race and Ethnicity of Youth in Illinois’ Juvenile Justice System. Enhancing the accuracy and reliability of juvenile justice data has been a consistent focus of the Commission for many years. Similarly, encouraging data-driven decision-making is a key element of the Illinois Models for Change Initiative, which is supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
The Commission and Models for Change recognize that complete, accurate and reliable data are fundamental to improving juvenile justice policy and practice and fostering positive outcomes for youth, families and communities. This document, by providing guidelines for collecting and recording the race and ethnicity of youth in Illinois’ juvenile justice system, serves as a tool for improving Illinois’ statewide and local data. The process described in this guide is consistent with federal policy and is intended to encourage the collection of information uniformly throughout the state and across justice system agencies and entities.
Why is the accurate recording of a juvenile’s race and ethnicity important? Among other benefits, this information helps state and local stakeholders to understand whom the system is serving and better identify the needs of those in the system, to more accurately identify how decisions are made throughout the process, to ensure fairness and objectivity, to know what services or resources are needed, and to monitor and examine system response to youth of color. Consistency in data categories across communities and agencies allows system leaders to appropriately share information with other stakeholders and the community, and to design effective strategies to reduce the disproportionate impact of the justice system on youth of color.
The Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission and the Illinois Models for Change Initiative strongly encourage agencies, organizations and practitioners at all stages of the juvenile justice system to adopt and implement these Guidelines for accurately recording race and ethnicity of youth in the juvenile justice system. Ultimately, we hope that this guide serves as a tool to support your efforts to improve outcomes for youth, families and the communities we serve.