- Associated Press - Monday, March 14, 2016

PHOENIX (AP) - Arizona’s state court system is allowing a Washington, D.C.-based research nonprofit to examine data from normally confidential court records to examine ethnic and racial disparities in juvenile court proceedings.

An order signed last week by Supreme Court Chief Justice Scott Bales grants the American Institutes for Research’s proposal to use the court records to conduct federally funded research to see why there are disproportionate numbers of minorities in the juvenile justice system.

Bales’ order said the research should help policymakers learn more about the disproportionality of minorities at various points in the juvenile justice system, identify contributing factors and develop appropriate steps to take.

The research will build upon a study conducted for the Arizona Governor’s Office for Children, Youth and Families by Arizona State University researchers and completed in 2014. The research by ASU’s College of Public Service & Community Solutions concluded that disparities exist but have declined.

The ASU researchers found that minorities “were overwhelmingly more likely to receive more severe sanctions than their white counterparts,” but the reverse was true in some jurisdictions.

Also, Native American youth were subject to both leniency and more severe sanctions, while few racial disparities were experienced by African-American youth, the ASU researchers said.

Steps recommended by the ASU researchers included improving programs and services in outlying areas and encouraging programs that focus on family relationships.

Under Bales’ order allowing the new research, the institutes must keep case information confidential and not copy it or use it for unauthorized research. Also, the data is to be returned to Arizona court officials for destruction after the study is complete.

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