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African-American Youth in The Juvenile Justice System

African-American Youth in The Juvenile Justice System

Page 46 of

Page 46 of 114

V. Selected Articles Race, Crime, and Juvenile Justice: The Issue of Racial Disparity The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine INTRODUCTION The panel has noted major disparities in the extent of involvement of minority youth, particularly black youth, compared with white youth in the juvenile justice system. The existence of disproportionate racial representation in the juvenile justice system raises questions about fundamental fairness and equality of treatment of these youth by the police, courts, and other personnel connected with the juvenile justice system. Furthermore, what happens to youth in their dealings (or lack of dealings) with the juvenile justice system may have substantial consequences for subsequent development and prospects for the future. Disproportional confinement of minorities has been recognized as a problem by the federal government. In 1988, Congress amended the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974 (P.L. 93-415, 42 U.S.C. 5601 et seq.) to require that states participating in the act's formula grants program address disproportionate confinement of minority juveniles in secure facilities. States were required to assess the level of confinement of minority juveniles and to implement strategies to reduce disproportionate minority representation where it was found to exist. In 1991, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention created the Disproportionate Minority Confinement initiative to help states comply with the mandate by testing various approaches for addressing the problem. Pilot projects funded by the initiative suggested that attention should focus on all aspects of the juvenile justice system rather than only on confinement (Devine et al., 1998). Research and social policy on race, crime, and the administration of justice in the United States are currently marked by a seeming conceptual and methodological impasse. This situation stems from efforts by researchers to explain the persistent overrepresentation of groups of racial and ethnic minorities in the juvenile and adult justice systems. Some researchers and commentators have tended to focus on racially disproportionate offending behavior patterns as the primary cause of such a disparity, whereas others have highlighted the persistence of biases among decision makers in the justice system. The most problematic feature of this “behavior versus justice system” debate has been the suggestion that these can be viewed as alternatives, rather than as processes that feed into one another. Furthermore, much of the debate has been carried out with an exceedingly narrow focus that fails to take account of the role that social injustice has played in the production of crime (Clarke, 1998; Lane, 1986; McCord and Ensminger, in press). Page 47 of 114

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