On September 18, 1998 nearly 200 juvenile justice practitioners, administrators and policy makers came together in Phoenix, Arizona to address the over-representation of minority youth in Arizona's juvenile justice system. The conference, entitled Colorblind Justice? Minority Youth Over-Representation in Arizona's Juvenile Justice System, was an effort of the Arizona Supreme Court Commission on Minorities. The conference sponsors included the Arizona Supreme Court Juvenile Justice Services Division, Arizona Governor's Division for Children, Arizona Juvenile Justice Commission, Federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Coalition for Juvenile Justice, and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges.
Following opening remarks from distinguished guests including Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas A. Zlaket and George Weisz, Executive Assistant and Criminal Justice Policy Advisor to Arizona Governor Jane Dee Hull, James C. "Buddy" Howell, former Division Director for the Federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention presented the morning keynote on the history of minority youth involvement with the juvenile court. Dr. Howell's remarks focused on the approaching centennial of the juvenile court, reflecting on its history and looking ahead to its future. Next, a multi-disciplinary panel discussion by presenters representing federal, state and local systems explored the broader issues surrounding minority youth over-representation in order to provide the audience with a baseline of understanding regarding the issues related to minority over-representation and disproportionate minority confinement.
During an uplifting and inspirational luncheon keynote address, the Rev. Warren H. Stewart of the First Institutional Baptist Church of Phoenix provided those in attendance with a "vision for minority youth." The conference continued with a series of six concurrent sessions exploring court and community partnerships, cultural competence in justice system decision-making, the education system's impact on minority over-representation, dependency and domestic violence issues facing minority families, legislative and grass-roots advocacy, and cultural competence in mental health treatment programs. The conference concluded with a lively panel discussion addressing the media's portrayal of juvenile crime and minority youth and the impact of the media on minority over-representation.
This important event was the culmination of months of planning by the Commission on Minorities and could not have happened without the leadership of conference co-chairs Gerald Richard and Carole Coles Henry, as well as the support of the Administrative Office of the Courts, specifically George Logan, Karen Lodoen, Tami Danze and Patti Cordova.
The conference looked beyond the juvenile justice system proper to examine the roots and potential solutions to the over-representation of minority youth in Arizona's juvenile justice system. Through this important undertaking and the dedication of the Commission on Minorities, Arizona demonstrated once again its important role as a leader in shaping the future of the juvenile justice system.