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Controlling Other People's Children: Racialized Views of Delinquency and Whites' Punitive Attitudes Toward Juvenile Offenders

NCJ Number
Criminology Volume: 50 Issue: 3 Dated: August 2012 Pages: 673-710
Justin T. Pickett; Ted Chiricos
Date Published
August 2012
38 pages
This study examined the argument that Whites' support for getting tough with juvenile offenders is in part tied to racialized views of youth crime.
The juvenile justice system was founded on, and until recently developed around, the idea that society should afford delinquents more leniency and rehabilitative care than adult criminals because of their lower levels of physical and cognitive development and, thus, diminished culpability for law violations and higher amenability to treatment. The past four decades, however, have witnessed a sustained movement to recriminalize delinquency through the enactment of policies that treat juvenile offenders more like their adult counterparts. Feld (1999a) and others have argued that this punitive turn in juvenile justice is in part a result of the racialization of delinquency and violent victimization in the post-Civil Rights era. This study provides the first test of the key assumption underlying this thesis, namely, that Whites' support for getting tough with juvenile offenders is in part tied to racialized views of youth crime. Drawing on data from a recent national survey, we examine the extent to which relative racial typifications about delinquency and victimization, as well as racial resentment, are associated with general punitiveness toward juvenile offenders as well as support for lower minimum ages of criminal justice jurisdiction. Regression results show that Whites who hold such typifications and those who are more racially resentful are both more likely to embrace punitive youth justice policies and favor transfers for younger offenders. The implications of the findings are discussed. Published by arrangement with John Wiley & Sons.