Study Minimizes Race Issue in Violent Teen Arrests

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A federal study has found no direct evidence that an offender’s race affects police decisions to take juveniles into custody for serious violent crimes. The report has provoked debate among juvenile crime watchers. The newspaper Youth Today quotes Dan Macallair of the San Francisco-based Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice as contending that the conclusion runs contrary to almost all research done on the subject.

The study examined data from the FBI’s National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS) covering 17 states in 1997 and 1998. It was done by Carl Pope of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Howard Snyder of the Pittsburgh-based National Center for Juvenile Justice. The report was issued by the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, part of the Justice Department.

Snyder co-authored an earlier report concluding that “black juveniles are overrepresented at all stages in the criminal justice system, compared with their proportion of the popuilation.” The new study covered only serious, violent crimes. Snyder told Youth Today that “if there was an area of crime that would have the least amount of police bias in arrest decision making, it would be serious crimes… if the police find the kid, they arrest him.”

Jeffrey Butts of the Washington-based Urban Institute said that “disproportionate minority contact … is not located in one point in the process. It’s slight disparity that accumulates over time,” from arrest through adjudication and sentencing.


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