Boys are less likely to commit crimes but they are more likely to be placed in a correctional facility than they were three decades ago, according to a new study that shows the justice system for juvenile offenders has become much more punitive. The trends are particularly pronounced among boys from racial minorities, according to the paper by Tia Stevens Andersen of the University of South Carolina and Michigan State University’s Merry Morash.
Although there were negligible differences among the racial groups in how frequently boys committed crimes, white boys were less likely to spend time in a facility than black and Hispanic boys who said they’d committed crimes just as frequently, as shown in the chart above. A black boy who told pollsters he had committed just five crimes in the past year was as likely to have been placed in a facility as a white boy who said he’d committed 40.
More recent statistics from the Department of Justice show that the juvenile justice system has continued to treat black boys more harshly. Although the overall number of cases in juvenile court has declined sharply since 2008, blacks still account for a third of cases in juvenile court, far more than their share of the population.
Advocates for children have long protested against what they describe as a “school-to-prison pipeline,” in which strict discipline and arrests in classrooms damage children’s long-term prospects, making them less likely to succeed in life and more likely to run afoul of the law in the future. A year ago, the Obama administration urged schools to reconsider zero-tolerance policies, which Attorney General Eric Holder said “have significant and lasting negative effects on the long-term well-being of our young people, increasing their likelihood of …read more