Weapon and drug offenses and juvenile disproportionate minority contact: An impact assessment and practical discussion

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Journal of Crime and Justice



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drug offenses, Juvenile justice, race, weapons offenses


© 2016 Midwestern Criminal Justice Association. Research on the targeted enforcement of weapons and drug offenses suggests that policies and street-level decisions around those offenses may play a role in disproportionate minority involvement with the justice system. Little research has directly examined the relative influence of these types of offenses on juvenile justice decisions. The analyses were completed using official case records from police agencies (n = 11) and juvenile courts (n = 6) as well as data from focus groups (n = 8) and key informant interviews (n = 56) conducted with personnel in those agencies. The quantitative data used here comprise records from 87,983 cases with measures of youth socio-demographics, case characteristics, offense type, and key juvenile court outcomes. The findings suggest that, although the effects of race as well as weapons and drug-offenses vary across outcome decisions and with the introduction of controls for other relevant factors, race-based disparities often persist in multivariate models. Qualitative data analysis finds that system actors tend to see the weapons and drug offense-based disparities emerging from structural conditions that are often mediated by culture and differential offending. Together, these findings offer important points of departure for further research and discussion of practical responses to disproportionate minority contact for the benefit of youth, communities, and the system itself.

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