Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program

Applied Developmental Psychology



Major Professor

Frick, Paul J.

Second Advisor

Evans, Lisa

Third Advisor

Soignier, Rodney Denis

Fourth Advisor

Laird, Robert

Fifth Advisor

Marsee, Monica


The overrepresentation of youth of color in the juvenile justice system, often referred to as disproportionate minority contact (DMC) can be found at many stages of the juvenile justice continuum. Further, research has shown that overrepresentation is not necessarily related to higher rates of criminal activity and suggests that case processing disparities can contribute to DMC. Risk assessment instruments (RAI) are objective techniques used to make decisions about youth in the juvenile justice system. This study examined the effects of implementing an RAI designed to make detention decisions, in a predominantly rural parish in Louisiana. Police officers from three law enforcement agencies investigated 202 cases during the evaluation period. The measures included an objective detention risk screening instrument, a contact form which contained juvenile demographic information, a two-item questionnaire assessing law enforcement's impression of the youth's need for detention placement and risk to public safety, and an arrest coding sheet which assessed subsequent police contacts and arrests among youth over 3 and 6 months of street time (i.e., time outside of secure confinement). Results revealed that overall law enforcement was unwilling to consistently complete the tool and continued to use subjective decision making, with completion rates ranging from 61% to 97% across the participating agencies. Also, subjective decision making by law enforcement actually helped minority youth as law enforcement consistently disregarded formal overrides included in the RAI, resulting in fewer minority youth being detained than were indicated by the RAI. Further, implementation of the tool, as constructed, resulted in small but insignificant reductions in the rates of overall confinement and rates of minority confinement when compared to the rates of confinement during the same time period of the previous year. Additionally, the RAI did not significantly predict future police contact due to items that did not predict recidivism in this sample. Use of a three-item version resulted in a significant increase in the tool's predictive ability. This study demonstrates the importance of additional validity testing following the implementation of detention risk assessment instruments to ensure that these tools reduce unnecessary confinement while protecting public safety.


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