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Exploring the Experiences of Asian Youth in the Criminal Justice System in Canada

NCJ Number
Journal of Gang Research Volume: 15 Issue: 3 Dated: Spring 2008 Pages: 1-17
Siu-ming Kwok Ph.D.
Date Published
17 pages
This study examined the experiences of 15 Asian youth processed in the criminal justice system of Calgary, Canada.
The findings indicate that four structural conditions shaped the experiences of Asian youth in Calgary's criminal justice system: visible minority status, Asian values, criminal involvement, and support system. The Asian youth uniformly felt they were being discriminated against at school, by the police, and in the youth detention center because of their visible minority status. Regarding Asian values, avoiding "losing face" in the community contributed to youths' parents' reluctance to seek help for their children outside the family. In addition, the Asian value of respect for authority led the youths' parents to attribute the children's wrongdoing to inadequate parenting rather than the misjudgments of the authorities or institutional discrimination. Such attitudes caused some of the youth to feel their families were not supportive in the youths' interactions with Calgary's criminal justice system. Family support for the youth was also related to the nature of their criminal involvement. Family support was stronger for youth who committed crimes against the person (e.g., assault) than for those who committed property crimes (e.g., theft). Family support was also weaker for youth who had strong peer group loyalty, including gang affiliation. Regarding support systems, the youth found that informal support systems (support provided by immediate family, relatives, and friends) were more helpful in criminal justice processing than formal support systems (school staff and criminal justice personnel). The findings suggest that qualities of caring, cultural sensitivity, and knowledge of gang culture are more important than the ethnicity of a social worker in helping Asian youth have positive experiences in the criminal justice system. Semistructured individual interviews were used to collect data from the youth. 2 tables and 36 references