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Hispanics and Juvenile Court Dispositions: A County-Level Study

NCJ Number
Criminal Justice Studies Volume: 22 Issue: 3 Dated: September 2009 Pages: 331-344
Carla Barela-Bloom; N. Prabha Unnithan
Date Published
September 2009
14 pages
This study examined juvenile court dispositional severity by comparing Hispanic juveniles to White juveniles.
Findings conclude that Hispanics were likely to receive harsher treatment in juvenile court decisions (except for certain situations where the difference may not be significant) than Whites; the severity with which Hispanic youths are treated lead to their disproportionate confinement in juvenile institutions. This supports previous findings that have shown that Hispanics, both adults and juveniles, suffer harsher dispositions leading to their over-representation in the later stages of the justice system. In this study, a higher proportion of Hispanic as opposed to White juveniles, received more severe dispositions. In addition, while the overall findings suggest the introduction of a number of control variables, there were situations when the relationship between ethnicity and disposition was rendered not significant. These situations included when the age of the juvenile was taken into account, when gender was considered, when there was a felony instant offense, when a weapon was involved, when there was a single charge, and when there was prior offenses. Ethnicity and disposition continued to be related when it involved a misdemeanor instant offense, where no weapon was used, when it consisted of multiple charges, and when there had been no prior offenses in the juvenile's record. The differences found in this study may increase, if one extends future research to include multiple decisionmaking points in the juvenile system. Data were collected on existing juvenile records utilizing a sample drawn from the population of juvenile cases from a Western County Probation Department in Colorado. Tables and references


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