Link to Birdie Calendar Juvenile Delinquency Lecture Notes 8 (1999): Race and Cultural Effects

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Discussion Questions


California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Created: May 7, 1999
Latest update: March 11, 2001

From Juvenile Justice Class
During the Colorado School Shooting

Source materials for these discussion questions were in Girls, Gangs, and Juvenile Justice, ed. by Meda Chesney-Lind and Randall G. Sheldon, 2d. edition, Wadsworth, 1998. ISBN: 0-534-26478-6 and in Readings in Juvenile Delinquency, Weis, Crutchfield, and Bridges, passim.

For Criminology in 2001, I suggest you use the following sources: School Shootings and White Denial by Tim Wise, AlterNet, March 6, 2001.

  1. Issues of Race and Juvenile Justice

    Keri's question: Had the Littleton, Colorado incident occurred in an inner-city neighborhood, would there not have been a much faster move to justice?

    jeanne's lecture notes from 1999 sources:

    • Figure 1 (p.35) shows that nonwhite delinquents are more likely to be repeat offenders (recidivists), 37%, as opposed to white delinquents who are more likely to be one-time offenders (52%). See col. 2, p. 34 in Juv. Delinq. Reader.

    • p. 158 in the Juv. Delinq. Reader: "Social scientists have been almost unwilling to discuss the question of why black crime rates are so high." Stark suggests an ecological explanation. ". . .high black crime rates are, in large measure, the result of where they live. . . . only 9 percent of blacks in South Carolina and 14 percent in Mississippi live in the central core of cities larger than 100,000, but 80 percent of blacks in Nebraska live in the heart of Omaha. What this means is that large proportions of Southern blacks live in suburbs, small towns, and rural areas where they benefit from factors conducive to low crime rates. Conversely, blacks outside the South are heavily concentrated in precisely the kinds of places . . . where the probabilities of anyone committing a crime are high. . . .

    • Girls, Delinquency and Juvenile Justice:, p.161: "Predictably, girls of color were more likely to be from low-income homes, but this was especially true of African American girls . . .Most importantly, Miller found that white girls were significantly more likely to be recommended for a treatment facility rather than a 'detention-oriented' placement than either African American or Latina girls."

    • Look also at the Conference the American Bar Association set up to study this issue in 1999: ABA Council on Racial & Ethnic Justice - October 1999 Conference in L.A.

    jeanne's notes on some March 2001 sources:

  2. Issues of Differing Perceptions of the Juvenile Justice Field, Depending on Who You Are, in What Neighborhood

    Eric's question: "Sometimes what I read in the text makes sense, but it seems to be a completely different world from the one I have known. I would like to know how others respond to the text's description of the juvenile justice world; how do their perceptions differ?"

    jeanne's lecture notes from 1999:

    Since I can't stop being a teacher, I ask that in sharing your perceptions you do the following:

    • Identify the reading or the site link to which you are reacting.
    • If you can, relate your perception in terms of whether the problem originates in the social structure or in the individual. And describe your perception of the solution as being in the social structure or in the individual. This is one way to anchor your response in theory.
    • If there is another theory, such as apperceptive mass, which you like better, or which just "feels" better, use that theory instead.
    • Try to support your perceptions with text cites or web links that might help to persuade others.

    jeanne's response to Eric in March 2001:

    Eric, I didn't even realize I hadn't answered you in 1999. I guess I considered it adequate to post your request for responses. But you are absolutely right about the way real life doesn't seem to fit these accounts you're reading. I think the same thing is true in March 2001. Albert Camus wrote The Stranger, a famous French novel, in which he spoke of how little the trial of an Arab in France for murder resembled the real life of the man.

    One theoretical explanation for this is Weber's warning of the dangers of bureaucracy and categorization. That warning is also reflected in today's theory by writers such as Martha Minow, who warn against the categorical thinking of the law with respect to human rights issues. When we categorize, and try to fit issues into the categorical framework of the law, we overlook the unique qualities of the individual. This decreases our sensitivity to the human side of the issue, and leads us to treat humans as though they were fungible.

    Rita's question: "On p. 127 of Sampson and Laub's reanalysis of the Glueck data, they say that 'With the exception of residential mobility, none of the structural background factors had a significant, direct effect on delinquency. Instead, family process mediated some 80 percent of the effect of structural background on delinquency.' What do they mean?"

    jeanne's response from 1999:

    They mean that what seems to count in fostering or preventing delinquency is how the family handles "supervision, [emotional] attachment, and discipline." Specific factors like a family member's drinking, or employment, or other problems of handling the family's business are less important directly than they are in the extent to which they affect supervision, attachment, and discipline. That's what they mean by mediation. If Daddy's a drunk, but he loves you, he demands respect and obedience for the family's basic values and rules, and he's fair in demanding that respect and obedience of everyone, then his drinking is less important in whether or not you slip into delinquency than the even-handed way in which he maintains the family rules and values.

    One plausible explanation for why that is not true with family mobility is that that affects the constancy with which the children attend school, can stay in the same school, and can keep the friends they make. Not belonging, and new students always experience a period of "not belonging," is difficult for children. Therefore, mobility may directly affect delinquency, and not be mediated by the parental handling of supervision, attachment, and discipline.

    As one of the class groups put it: "Only mobility retains a significant effect on delinquency when the family dimensions of discipline, supervision, and attachment are controlled."