The Indiana JDAI Implicit Bias Training Institute: Building Capacity for an Equitable Youth Justice System

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Indiana Court Times on 05/04/2020 by Nancy Wever and Tashi Teuschler

The Indiana Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative Implicit Bias Training Institute is a four-part, capacity-building workshop to strengthen one’s understanding of implicit bias and how biases impact our daily decisions. The rigorous curriculum equips participants with skills and content to conduct implicit bias training and tools to complete equity impact assessments on policies.

According to the Kirwin Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, implicit bias is defined as “attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner.” These biases are unconsciously developed through our socialization process. The JDAI Institute educates participants on how this happens and demonstrates the influence of our unconscious biases in decision-making. A critical way to counteract implicit bias is to become self-aware of when these biases are at work. With self-awareness comes the ability to slow down the decision-making process to interrupt the influence of implicit biases.

The first institute was developed in 2014 as a strategy to address the persistent racial disparities that plague the youth justice system. In 2019, stakeholders from 21 JDAI counties completed the third institute. Participants included local JDAI coordinators, probation officers, school representatives, community members, law enforcement officers, and a judicial officer.

Judge Karen Love, Hendricks Superior Court 3, graduated from the institute last year and described the experience as “phenomenal.” She recommended that all judicial officers participate in a similar training and wished she would have had this experience earlier in her judicial career. Additionally, Judge Love attended many conferences where implicit bias was discussed and found them less than helpful.

According to Judge Love, the JDAI Implicit Bias Institute is set apart from other similar programs by its structure of learning opportunities and its process. Diverse teams work to motivate classmates, who consist of court employees, probation officers, and community partners. Activities consist of multiple conference calls and in-person sessions over the course of ten months, as well as homework assignments for the teams. The structure provides an environment in which stakeholders representing multiple disciplines discuss attitudes that affect our decisions and encourage candid sharing of experiences from members of the group.

Judge Love’s takeaway is that “implicit bias is a component of a person’s attitude. People always project on the outside what they feel on the inside.” She realizes that she can make purposeful choices that impact her daily interactions with colleagues, litigants, family, and friends. She credits the JDAI Institute as a personal and professional investment that she did not expect but would repeat in a heartbeat.