Juveniles And Racial Disparity

The juvenile justice system is a fairly new concept compared to the adult criminal justice system. Prior to the nineteenth century, juvenile’s family and community were responsible for the actions taken by the juvenile. When a juvenile was considered undisciplined, they were sent to go live with another family to learn a skill or trade. There were facilities that were established prior to the nineteenth century that housed undisciplined or delinquent juveniles such as asylums, orphanages, houses of refuge and reformatories.

These institutions were established to provide minimal focus on the rehabilitation of juveniles. In the south, southerners tended to tolerate the misbehavior of the white males compared to the misbehavior of a black slave. 

The Northern part of the United Stated witnessed major changes in aspects of civil society. With these major changes came an influx of poor children that were arrested and taken to jail for “soliciting charity”, caught sleeping on cellar doors or were suspected of larceny crimes.

In 1825, America’s first institution was opened in New York; The New York House of Refuge. Boston and Philadelphia followed in the steps and established houses of refuge as well for juveniles. It is important to note that there was extreme prejudice against immigrant juveniles and Black juveniles as they were excluded from the houses of refuge. Black juveniles would have been more likely to be sent to adult jails and prisons. It was approximately a decade later that houses of refuge added sections for juveniles of color.

Juveniles that were admitted were subjected to longer sentences and harsher treatment than white juveniles.

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Colored juveniles also suffered a higher death rate within these institutions. In 1899, the first juvenile court was established in Cook County, Illinois. Youth courts began to expand and become establish in other states. By the year 1912 the federal children’s bureau was established and youth courts existed in 22 states. Unfortunately, the Black and immigrant juveniles were overrepresented in court case loads. The juveniles were underserved due to the lack of community resources available to them and even though the States started to separate juveniles from the adult criminal setting, a lot of black juveniles still found themselves being placed with the adult population. Latino juveniles also experienced disproportional treatment from the juvenile justice system. Mexican- American juveniles were labeled feebleminded and were treated as less deserving.

The Latino juveniles also experienced hostility from the public and law enforcement because of their subculture. The juvenile justice system continues to mature as the years go by. Racial disparity within the juvenile justice system does exist. Race, gender, and combination of both along with mental illness have been shown in studies and reports to play factors in the penalization of minority juveniles. The term race is not a scientific concept. It’s a biological meaningless category which refers to phenotypic differences in biological traits deemed by society. Those differences can be skin color, hair texture, or any other physical attribution (Packet). Racial disparity is defined as a racial or ethnic group that is overrepresented in the criminal justice system compared to the general population.

For example, African American juveniles make up seventeen percent of their age group within the overall general population and statistically they represent approximately 45% of juvenile arrests, 30% of petitions to juvenile court and 40% of juveniles in public long term institutions(packet). Unfortunately for the other minority groups like Latinos, Asians, and Native Americans, criminal justice data has not been kept up with and recorded to the extent data for black v white has.  As a result, there is a limited amount of information available on their involvement with the Juvenile Justice system. There are a few factors that have been identified as to why the numbers in the juvenile justice system are overrepresented and they are higher crime rates, unavailable resources, legislative decisions, and racial biases. In 1988, Congress amended the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974 and required each state that was participating in the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act’s federal grants program to address the Disproportionate Minority Contact.

The states were to focus on any disproportion of minority juveniles and if the proportion of that group represented was a higher number than the general population number, the state is required to develop and implement plans to reduce the representation numbers. In North Carolina, according to the sentencing project report Black Disparities in Youth Incarceration, in 2015 the juvenile placement rate per one hundred thousand for whites was twenty-two and for blacks was one hundred and sixty-four equaling the racial disparity to 7.45. In 2016, the NC Juvenile Justice system made contact with thirty-five percent white, forty- nine percent black, eleven percent Hispanic/Latino, and five percent other. North Carolina has implemented many community-based initiatives in the attempt to reduce the Disproportionate Minority Contact and has been successful in reducing the number of minority juveniles coming in contact with Juvenile Justice. In the 2016 Juvenile justice report for North Carolina, thirty- four percent of the juveniles served were females and sixty-six percent of juveniles served were males.

The percentage for females has always been lower than that of the males but the percentage of females coming in contact with juvenile justice has been on the rise. Common offenses committed by females are running away, larceny, alcohol violations, disorderly conduct, and assaults(book). Males and females share many of the same risk factors for offending even though these factors impact each gender differently. Victimization is a risk factor that both have in common, for example child abuse. Juveniles, both males and females that have experienced child abuse have a risk of offending. It is reported that females are exposed to child abuse at a much higher percentage than males. (packet) Female offenders are also less likely to than the male counterpart to be arrested and be formally charged for offenses but once a female is formally charged they are more likely than the male counterpart to receive secure confinement. Research also suggests that females are becoming more violent and this could be due to an actual increase in violent behavior or reclassifications of offenses such as simple assault into aggravated assault.

The racial disparity between minority and white females does exist as well. Minority females are more prone to come into contact with juvenile justice. To help address needs for female juveniles there has been an increase in gender-specific programs. Additional information is still needed to be obtained to better the programs to meet those specific needs. In the research article The Provision and Completion of Gender-Specific Services for Girls on Probation, it found the success rate for African American females that participated in gender specific programs low compared to other females (Wolf, Graziano, & Hartney, 2009). The juvenile justice system is also presented with substance use, behavioral health needs and Mental Health disorders from juveniles. In the 2016 North Carolina Juvenile Justice reported that seventy percent of juveniles had more than one mental health disorder, approximately sixty-one percent of juveniles held a substance use diagnosis, and approximately sixty percent of juveniles had a combination of both mental health and substance use.

Other studies done by researchers have found similar findings. In a sampling framed study of a Midwest County juvenile court population, Chiquitia Welch-Brewer, Patricia Stoddard-Dare, and Christopher Mallett found that females in juvenile justice system had higher rates of mental health problems in comparison to the male population. For this sampling group it was concluded that ADHD was the most common mental health disorder for both White and Minority males. Depression was the second to ADHD in mental health disorders. For minority females, it was the opposite. Depression was the most common followed by ADHD. For white females the most common disorders along with ADHD were bipolar, conduct disorder, and oppositional defiant. Mental health and substance use is a factor that is used in determining probation or convictions by juvenile justice. In North Carolina, seventy-three percent of females were diagnosed with Trauma and Stressor Related disorder compared to fifty-six percent of juvenile males.

And females exceeded the males in North Carolina in regards to conduct disorder in the community programs population. In conclusion, more research is essentially needed for the continuance and improvement of the Juvenile justice system. Community resources need to be readily available on all levels to community workers not only when a juvenile petition is done. Gender focused treatment is a necessity to meet the needs of juveniles that do encounter Juvenile Justice with mental health and substance use needs. The focus on reducing racial disparity should be goal set by all states. The Disproportionate Minority Contact data should continue to be collected and data should be detailed in including all minority groups so there is not a lack of data that involves minority groups other than African Americans. Addressing all factors should potentially produce positive outcomes of juveniles in the Juvenile Justice System.

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Juveniles And Racial Disparity. (2022, Jul 15). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/juveniles-and-racial-disparity/

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