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Differentiating Among Racial/Ethnic Groups and Its Implications for Understanding Juvenile Justice Decision Making

NCJ Number
Journal of Criminal Justice Volume: 35 Issue: 5 Dated: September/October 2007 Pages: 471-484
Michael J. Leiber; Joseph Johnson; Kristan Fox; Robyn Lacks
Date Published
September 2007
14 pages
This study examined the effects of race/ethnicity on the juvenile justice decisionmaking process for Whites, African-Americans, Native-Americans, Asian-Americans, and those labeled as multiracial.
Research revealed that the juvenile justice decisionmaking process was impacted by the race/ethnicity of the youth, and that being a minority youth, in some instances, impacted the decisionmaking differently than if the youth was White. Asian-American youth received more severe outcomes than White youth, and in some cases, other minorities. Even though Asian-Americans were less likely to be released at intake and more likely to be adjudicated delinquent than their White counterparts, Native-Americans and African-Americans were also found to be the recipients of differential treatment even after consideration of legal and extralegal factors. Furthermore, being African-American individually or in combination with the number of charges at the time of the referral impacted decisionmaking at three decisionmaking outcomes while being Native-American or Asian-American increased the likelihood of receiving differential outcomes at two of the four decisionmaking stages. The factors of crime as a social problem, inequality, racial inequality, concentrated neighborhood disadvantage, and immigration interrelate and link to segregation, family disruption, and subculture adaptations (such as shadow cultures, and street codes of conduct). These factors combined with social isolation from lack of sustained interaction with individuals and institutions from mainstream society, will most likely continue to develop and foster stereotypes that shape decisionmakers perceptions of minorities as “threatening,” increasing the likelihood of State intervention. There is a need to differentiate among minority youth to fully capture the relative influence each racial/ethnic group might have on decisionmaking and social control. This study used secondary analysis from all case referrals for delinquency acts and probation violations (3,777 cases in sample) in 2 juvenile court jurisdictions in a northwestern State. Tables, notes, references