This dissertation reports on an investigation that was designed to expand the empirical and theoretical research on disproportionate youth contact with the justice system, addressing an information gap by identifying both the contextual factors associated with severity of justice system response to youth and the macro-structural environments that disproportionately affect young women and youth of color.
The author’s dissertation covers a research project that was designed to expand the empirical and theoretical research on disproportionate youth contact with the justice system. Noting an information gap regarding the effects of extralegal factors on police behavior and justice system processing, the research study examined the social, political, and economic contextual factors that may influence disparities in justice system contact. The author identifies contextual factors associated with severity of justice system response to youth as well as the macro-structural environments that disproportionately affect young women and youth of color. Specifically, the author examines the direct effects of county and state characteristics on youth risk and arrest and probabilities of charge, a court appearance, conviction, and placement, and how the effects of individual characteristics, and county and state characteristics interact to disproportionately impact certain groups of youth in certain environments. The National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY97) served as the main dataset for this study, with county- and state-specific data from various publicly available sources indicating structural disadvantage, population composition, political conservatism, prosecutor’s office characteristics, delinquency petition and crime rates, gender inequity, child health and well-being, and juvenile justice policy punitiveness. Overall, the author notes that findings indicate the reduction of gender and racial or ethnic disparities is unlikely without commitment to the structural reform of inequalities, and that intervention efforts to reduce those disparities should be multifaceted and include community-based youth-serving organizations along with human services agencies and criminal and juvenile justice agencies.
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