A Discussion about Race and the Juvenile Justice System

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Race and the Juvenile Justice System

Race has been an issue for quite some time now, although we have come a long way with racial discrimination, we cannot turn our heads to the fact that it still exist. These racial divides are no different in the juvenile justice system. It is said that society views minorities as a threat to economic and cultural interest, because of this they are discriminated against and over represented in the justice system. There are two different types of discrimination, direct and indirect. An example of direct discrimination would be a black kids being treated more severely than a white kid when they both commit the same crime. An example of indirect discrimination is a black kid and a white kid being treated differently when they commit the same crime due to their socioeconomic class. What we are experiencing now is referred to as “second generation” racism. “Many of today’s racial injustices are not caused by simple prejudice; instead they are all legacies of the racial caste system of our recent past.” (Kusnetz 2014)

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In 2002, African Americans made up about 15% of the youth. 40% of the teens incarcerated were also African American. By 2006 out of all juvenile detainees, 69% were African American. The trend is easy to spot, African American make up the majority of the number of youth that come in contact with the law and that number is increasing by the year. It is proven that black juveniles are viewed as being more dangerous, more disrespectful, have worse attitudes, and more negative personalities than white kids. (Kusnets 2014) In Facing the Facts: The State of Race in America, Roz Bentley talks about the black community in many aspects. He sheds light on the fact that black children are the least educated and that only 68% of blacks graduate high school, they also make up the highest number of children in school to be suspended or expelled and that black children are most likely to attend the worst schools in the country because education is not valued in the black community as a whole. He went on to say that studies show that black children spend more time in front of a television than any other race and are less supervised than any other race. He explained how all these different factors can lead to stereotypes and ultimately racial profiling in the juvenile justice world. Let’s take a closer look. If black children spend more time in front of the television than any other race, and are the least supervised, that is a recipe for disaster. We can all agree that half of the stuff that is shown on tv is not okay and it is only getting worse. For example, all the violence in movies has drastically increased.

Music videos are becoming more and more farfetched s far as the life style they live goes. The youth look up to these people, thus wanting to be like them, have what they have, and live the lifestyle they live because it looks so fun and easy. However, nine times out of ten what they see on tv is not reality and the chances of them becoming that person are slim to none. However, they will begin doing what they think is necessary in order to get there. Let’s say for example, that David, a 15 year old African American boy lives with his mom who is single and must work all the time in order to provide. David’s father is not in the picture and never has been. David is often left in the house alone to entertain himself. He ends up watching tv for hours at a time. His favorite rapper is T.I. David wants to be just like this man, so he begins dressing like him, worshiping money, disrespecting women, and starts selling drugs because that is what his favorite rapper talks about constantly. David truly believe that by doing these things he is that much closer to the money, fame, and success of his favorite rapper. However, in the process David skips school continuously so that he doesn’t miss out of money (devaluing education). He gets behind and eventually drops out. One day while on the corner David sells dope to an undercover. Just like that the snowball effect has begun and the chances of David having the normal life that he was once capable of having just decreased tremendously. This made up story may seem a little dramatic, but it happens all the time. Maybe not verbatim, but it happens. Now, because David is a young black man, with a criminal record and no high school diploma, his chances of getting a good job decrease, and the chances of him beginning a continuous cycle with the law increase.

The Social Structure Theory can be used to best explain the racial divide in the juvenile justice system. The social structure theory focuses on the economic and social classes in which lower-class youth live. It also examines why lower class youth are more likely to commit crimes than middle and upper class youth. There are three categories under the social structure theory, these include: ecological, strain, and subculture. The ecological social structure theory explains delinquency based on where it occurred. The strain social structure theory explains delinquency due to lack of opportunity, while the subculture social structure theory explains delinquency as a set of values, norms, and beliefs, that differ from those of the dominant culture. (Bernard 2010)

In order to help do away with the discrimination in juveniles we must come together as the human race and work to keep these young people out of trouble. White and Black people have been against each other long enough. So far this method hasn’t worked, we must all come together, love and respect one another as our own and learn to look past the color of one’s skin. We must find a way to keep the youth busy and supervised, we must also find a way to make sure that education becomes important in the black community and that no child is denied the right to education. We must work together to make the school systems more well distributed so that everyone has just as equal of an opportunity at education. We must change the stereotypes of our young black community, especially young black males. We need more educated and respectful men and less men on the corner dealing drugs. We have to teach our young men how to value themselves and that being educated is not being “lame”. No matter what color someone is we must work together. Children of every race and gender are capable of becoming caught up in the juvenile justice system. So, we do not have to look at it as bettering things solely for the black youth but for our youth in general, after all they are our future.

Works Cited

  • Bentley, R., & Greer, C. (2014). Facing the Facts: The State of Race in America. Ebony, 70(2), 100.
  • Bernard, T., & Kurlychek, M. (2010). The Cycle of Juvenile Justice.(2nd ed.). Oxford University Press.
  • Kusnetz, D. (2014) Addressing Structural Racism in Juvenile Justice through Experimentalism.
  • Columbia Journal of Law & Social Problems. 47, 3, 245-284.
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A Discussion About Race and the Juvenile Justice System. (2022, Dec 13). Retrieved April 2, 2023 , from

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