Racial disparities have been occurring at every step of processing in the juvenile justice system and it has taken years and years of research to understand and address this discrimination better. There have been many leaders who have raised their voices about the differential and selective treatment of minors in a juvenile system, depending upon their race. The abstract utopian ideology that justice should be executed blindly in criminal cases. When examining racial disparities in juvenile justice, we can say without a doubt, this is best when applied in such a system, where a minor’s life can take a complete 360 turn if the court puts emphasis on rehabilitation rather than punishment.
Nevertheless, various researches have been conducted that clearly show how for years on end, racial disparity has been in existence when it comes to how minors are being treated in the juvenile justice system. Records from the 1980s and 1990s indicated a higher containment and detainment rate for black juveniles as compared to those for white juveniles. Moreover, it was also determined that there was a higher chance for black youth to be sent to correctional facilities, whereas it was more likely for white youth, to be sent to psychiatric hospitals.
Adding on to that, the most latest studies have also reported the trend of overrepresentation of minorities in the juvenile justice system. These kinds of reports have given national leaders the push they needed to work towards bringing a change in the requirements enforced upon local and state agencies in charge of the juvenile justice system. Let us dive into the article and learn more about racial discrimination in the juvenile justice system.
Table of Contents
- 1 Juvenile Justice System Definition
- 2 Juvenile Justice System History
- 3 Five Periods Of Juvenile Justice History
- 4 Disproportionality In Juvenile Justice
- 5 Juvenile Justice System Facts
- 6 Conclusion
Juvenile Justice System Definition
The juvenile justice system is the framework of the criminal judicial system that manages legal offenses perpetrated by minors, generally between the ages of 10 and 18 years. The upper age limit is dictated by the varying juvenile laws of each state. Any infringement of the law that could have been done by an adult, but is rather done by an adolescent falls under the category of juvenile offense. There are likewise “status offenses” that may just be committed by an adolescent. These include, delinquency, fleeing, breaching a curfew, and underage liquor or drug utilization. In a juvenile justice system, offenders who are minors do not go through the same trial procedures as grown-ups. Even their cases are heard in a different court intended for juveniles.
Moreover, the juvenile justice system, its arrangement of laws and strategies, proposed to manage the handling and treatment of juvenile guilty parties for infringement of law and to give lawful cures that secure their inclinations in circumstances of contention or disregard. Culpable offenses that are named criminal offenses for grown-ups (e.g., murder, theft, and burglary) are alluded to as misconduct when carried out by adolescents, while adolescent offenses commanding lawful mediation just (e.g., liquor and tobacco use, delinquency, and fleeing from home) are alluded to as status offenses. Kids are likewise liable to particular laws, systems, and strategies intended to safeguard their interest when parents or other legal guardians are inaccessible, careless, or involved in custodial issues.
Juvenile Justice System History
According to LawyerShop.com, “The juvenile justice system was implemented into U.S. policy in 1899 under the pretext that youth were different than adults in their ability to make prudent decisions, understand the effects of their actions, and comprehend the irreversible reality of committing a criminal act.” Prior to 1899, child offenders over the age of seven were imprisoned with adults. Political and social reformers, supported by psychological research, began a shift in society’s views on juvenile offenders and began establishing facilities for rehabilitation rather than punishment. According to LawyerShop.com, these changes were based upon a conviction that “society had a responsibility to recover the lives of its young offenders before they became absorbed in the criminal activity they were taking part in.” Through the juvenile justice system, the state exercised parental authority and took responsibility for youths until they were either rehabilitated, or aged out of the system by becoming adults.
Five Periods Of Juvenile Justice History
The five major historical eras in the history of the juvenile justice system are given below:
This period lasted from 1646-1824 and the laws regarding juvenile criminal offenses were brought over from England. It was believed that it was in the innate nature of children to break the law. The juveniles were strictly punished where necessary and it was usually the family who controlled and inflicted the punishments. If parents were unable to do so, the disciplinary measures were handed over to the church or to other socially active institutions. Children who were 7 years of age or under were not held accountable but as soon as the child turned 8, it was thought that they were now old enough to tell the difference between good and bad and thus, could be taken to court and be held accountable under the law. The punishments that juvenile offenders typically received during this period were due to rebelliousness and disobedience.
The Refuge Period
This period lasted from 1824-1899. Since poverty was a crime during this time, children were kept away from such environments to help have a positive impact on their behaviours. Places like houses of refuge, reform schools and foster homes were created specifically for minors. It was believed that bad and unhealthy environments were the major reasons for bad behaviours in children which is why they were placed in refuge and reform schools. The institutions and reformers that were instigating this change believed that one should focus more on what made a child act that certain way rather than what punishment the child deserves. It was also believed that juveniles should be treated and rehabilitated instead of being punished as an adult would have been. In 1870, the first separate trial for juveniles was conducted, and in 1880, the first probation system for juveniles came into being.
The Juvenile Court Period
This period lasted from 1899-1960. This was also during the Age of Reform, also known as the Progressive Era, and it was once again believed that the way children act and behave was a reflection of their environment.a lot of emphasis was put on parents and their responsibility to bring up hardworking and obedient children. In 1899, the first formal juvenile court was established and the Juvenile Court Act passed a policy based on a medical model. This policy highlighted the importance of individual diagnosis and treatment. The act also stated that in rehabilitation centres, children should be kept separate from adults and that probation periods could be used to ensure better rehabilitation. Juveniles under the age of 16 were not held accountable under the law for any crime that they committed. In some cases, juveniles were sent to be treated by community service agencies based on religion. If the court was satisfied with the results, then no criminal record was made.
The Juvenile Rights Period
This period lasted from 1960-1980. During this period the number of children living in a house with a single parent increased. This was labelled as a major factor for higher rates of juvenile delinquency. The juvenile justice system went through major alterations where the four D’s were incorporated into the legal system. These were: due process, deinstitutionalization, decriminalization, and diversion. The Uniform Juvenile Court Act of 1968 made sure to include arrangements that had an impact on law enforcement and corrections. Moreover, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) and the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDP) were both formed in 1974. The two basic goals of the JJDP Act were to see to the deinstitutionalization of juvenile offenders and their removal from adult rehab centres, along with ensuring that more states provided funds for juveniles, thus reducing institutionalization.
The Crime Control Period
This period started in the 1980’s and is still intact today. The medical model has been modified over the years to adjust to the requirements of the particular time period. In today’s time, it has been altered in such a way that keeps the best interest of the juvenile offenders in mind. Two additional D’s have been incorporated in the juvenile justice system and they are: deterrence and desert. Moreover, the rules and regulations concerning juvenile offenders have become more stricter in order to avoid juvenile crimes. In this day and age, courts are more focused on that law and what is right according to it. It is not just about what is best for the minor, but also what is best for the society as a whole. No matter who the offender is, people know that there will be consequences for their actions.
Disproportionality In Juvenile Justice
Coming to terms with the disproportionality in juvenile justice first requires understanding the racial and ethnic ratio of the adolescent populace. In 2010, African Americans contained 17 percent of all juveniles, yet made 31 percent of all the arrests. Minimal changes have occurred in this statistic as compared to that from earlier decades. Comparative variations may exist among Latino youth, however information on ethnic aberrations are restricted. Racial incongruities have stayed solid even as juvenile crime percentages (and other related insights, for example, confinements) have fallen.
These disparities do not cease even after arrests have been made. Among the adolescents who are arrested, there are more chances for black juveniles to be alluded to an adolescent court as compared to white adolescents. They are bound to be processed (and more averse to be diverted). Among those mediated juveniles, they are bound to be sent to spend some time in confinement. Among those confined, dark youth are bound to be moved to more grown-up facilities. The differences develop at pretty much every level of the system.
Juvenile Justice System Facts
Some facts concerning the juvenile justice system are mentioned below:
- The states of California and Florida spend more on correctional facilities than they do higher education and other states follow a similar trajectory.
- The mean charges for sending a juvenile to a rehabilitation center are between $35,000 and $64,000, which is more than Harvard’s annual tuition fee per student.
- In 1990, the cost of maintaining prisons was $24.9 billion, which became $31.2 billion within 2 years. The budget for OJJDP was $144 million. So you can imagine how much it would be now.
- A comparison between New York and New Jersey showed that the rate of rearrest in juveniles held in a juvenile court was 29 percent less that those held in an adult criminal court.
- The rate of juveniles who repeat the offense they were arrested for (or even if they commit any other crime) was higher in the group transferred from juvenile to adult court as compared to those who were not transferred.
- Juveniles in adult facilities are 500 percent more likely to be molested, 200 percent more likely to be physically abused and beaten by the staff and 50 percent more likely to be attacked with a weapon as compared to children in juvenile facilities.
- The percentage of juvenile crimes is actually very low. Some studies say it is as low as 13 percent.
Racial disparities in juvenile justice is not something that has just recently come to the surface. It has been existing for a long time now. The overrepresentation of minorities in the juvenile justice system can be clearly depicted through studies that show an alarmingly high rate of young black men in jail than in colleges or universities. People who are blind to the ongoing discrimination easily blame it on a ‘cultural deficit’ or the fact that criminality is inherent to their nature. Despite growing unrest regarding the way the law enforcement system treats certain races, the issue is still there, unresolved, and it is high time that the authorities, as well as us – the people who make up a society – take strong action against it.