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The Impact of Racial Profiling on Minority Youth in the Juvenile Justice System

Mar 13, 2023 | 0 comments

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Mar 13, 2023 | Essays | 0 comments


In the past few decades, studies have noted major disparities in the degree of minority youth involvement, especially the black youth in comparison to the white youths in the juvenile justice system. The presence of the racial representation that is disproportionate in the juvenile justice system raises the fundamental questions on equality and fairness in the treatment of these youths by the courts, police and other people related to the juvenile justice system. The federal government has recognized confinement of the minorities disproportionately (Widom, 228). Stevenson highlights how racial judgment affects their victims and family. Even though it is believed that the United States is currently in a post-racial era, there is still an existence of racial profiling every day. The media exhibits videos of law enforcement targeting people of color, interrogating and doing searches without evidence of criminal activity. Despite overt discrimination has decreased significantly in the justice system over the past few decades, American Sociological Association pointed out that at the begging of the 21st century, the society still grapples with the reality and the perception of unfairness in the justice system. Ethnic and racial disparities persist in crime and the criminal justice system in the United States. The minority groups in united states are overrepresented in victimization, offending and delinquency in all criminal justice process stages. That is from the arrest, pretrial detention, sentencing and finally to confinement (3). The paper will analyze how racial profiling and treating of the juvenile offenders are still prevalent, is being practiced and affects mostly people of color.

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The juvenile justice system

According to ASA, consistent and strong research studies indicate significant disparities for the minority groups at most of the juvenile justice systems in united states, particularly to the African Americans (9). ASA quoted a study by Snyder and Sickmund which reported that since 1992, there had been a decline in the racial disparity in the justice system for the younger offenders in two areas. That is on the arrest and to waiver/transfer to the adult criminal court. The report further indicates at all stages of processing of cases, the black youths are still overrepresented, with significant disparity levels at detention and arrest. In 2002, the black youth which accounted for 16% of the population in united states and 28% of youth arrests, accounted for about 33% of court cases for the juveniles (ASA, 9). There is a consensus among the majority of the researchers that most forms of racial discrimination take place in the treatment of the juvenile offenders. ASA alluded to a report by Pope and Feyerherm which analyzed 46 studies on the processing of the juvenile justice for the minority. Their findings indicated that two-thirds of the studies demonstrated evidence of minority youth discrimination either directly, indirectly or as a mixed pattern. Directly such as differences in decisions in the processing of cases such as detention. Indirectly as operating through other characteristics of the cases such as the situation of the family. Finally, as a mixed pattern such as differences in races being important at some stages, or for particular subgroups of offences or offenders. The way the juvenile offenders get treated got highlighted by Stevenson in a number of his personal experiences. He documents police brutality when saw the guard’s brutality on his first client, Henry. He wondered why the existence of such unjustified behavior and discrimination and wanted to investigate why people get different treatments

Conviction and sentencing

In their report which they analyzed and meta-analyzed different studies, Sagepub mentioned to a study by Wilbanks and another study by Petersilia that indicated that by aggregate blacks tend towards being less convicted (73). These findings are also echoed by a study by Janet Lauritsen and Robert Sampson which authoritatively indicated that no consistent evidence demonstrates racial discrimination at the criminal conviction point. Sagepub also echoed a study by National Academy of Sciences that found out that prior criminal records of an offender instead of the race affected the conviction, sentencing and disposition. Disparities in the race during sentencing was a result of disproportionate representation of the minorities in criminal records that get officially processed. However, some of the raised concerns in conviction and sentencing was that race might be having a cumulative effect on the sentencing by indirectly operating through other factors that are disadvantaging the minority groups. Moreover, the race was also a concern in that it might be interacting with other factors such as the first-time arrests in influencing decision making (73).

Stevenson tells the story of Walter McMillan one of his clients from Alabama state. The judge called him to halt his support to the client he was representing because of the assumptions that he had links with drugs and other related cartels. The judge gave severe punishment to McMillan although according to Stevenson, he was innocent. This is an illustration of racial discrimination in the justice system where the minority group especially people of color get punished for crimes not committed. In such states of the United States, the scenarios are rampant and get witnessed where people of color get punished and humiliated for crimes that they did not commit. African Americans are more likely than White people to get convicted in error of crimes including murders and sexual assaults. In addition, when African Americans are cleared of murder, they spent three years longer compared to their white counterparts in prison before release. Such occurrences reveal how racial judgment leads to incarceration or punishing of the wrong person.

The police and the minorities

Stevenson himself was a victim of racial judgment. He narrates his ordeal on how he was badly treated by two policemen, yet they did not have any iota of evidence that he was a burglar. He was dragged out of his car brutally and turned upside down by the policemen. Moreover, they searched his car but did not get any burglary proof. According to Foundation, American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU, the police officers always do illegal searches without solid evidence (ASA, 14). Such profiling of the people of the color is detrimental and makes people lose trust in the policemen. Stevenson further asserts that frustrating events often flare up aggression amongst people who get racially profiled.

According to ASA, for ethnic and racial minorities, the two key issues are abusive policing and under-policing (14). Empirical evidence suggests that the minority groups have a higher likelihood of getting arrested, being stopped, victimized by the excessive police force, frisked on the street, questioned, pulled over while driving for humiliating searches, or subjected to harassment or verbal abuse by police compared to the white Americans. Despite the fact that these events are not necessarily the consequence of explicit racial discrimination, studies indicate that it is widely believed by the blacks that racism towards the blacks by the police is widespread and the blacks get harsh treatment from the criminal justice system compared to the whites. Moreover, it is believed that police provide minimal protection to the black’s neighborhoods (ASA, 14).


In conclusion, the paper synthesized and analyzed information from different sources on racial profiling and treating of the juvenile offenders is still prevalent, is being practiced and affects mostly people of color. From the synthesis, it is evident that racial profiling is still prevalent. The book of Just Mercy by Stevenson and other authors suggests that racial discrimination of the minority in the society leads to illegal searches, imprisonment and severe penalties. In the previous Presidential elections, racial discrimination was brought into the light. President Donald Trump spoke poorly about African Americans, Immigrants, and other minorities. As a result, he is condoning racial discrimination and people have started to act on racial judgement. These examples demonstrate how racial profiling ends up punishing the innocent and continues happening in the world.

Work cited

ASA. “Race, Ethnicity, And The Criminal Justice System”. Asanet.Org, 2007, http://www.asanet.org/sites/default/files/savvy/images/press/docs/pdf/ASARaceCrime.pdf. Accessed 17 Mar 2018.

Sagepub. “Racial Discrimination In The Criminal Justice System”. Sagepub.Com, 2018, https://www.sagepub.com/sites/default/files/upm-binaries/46946_CH_3.pdf. Accessed 17 Mar 2018.

Stevenson, Bryan. Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption. , 2015. Print.

Widom, Cathy Spatz. Juvenile Crime, Juvenile Justice: Chapter: Race, Crime, And Juvenile Justice: The Issue Of Racial Disparity. 2001. Accessed 17 Mar 2018.< https://www.nap.edu/read/9747/chapter/8 >


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