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juvenile justice, graduated sanctions, predictors of dispositional outcomes, racial/ ethnic minorities


Scholars and policy makers have long been troubled by the potential for some youth to receive disparate sanctioning as a function of extralegal factors, especially against the backdrop of ethnic/racial minority group overrepresentation in the juvenile justice system as a whole. Beginning in the late 1990s, many states began to adopt a graduated sanctions model in response to the emerging ‘get tough’ zeitgeist of the day. Originally intended by the federal government to reinforce juvenile accountability and to ensure equitable treatment of all youth in custody, some stakeholders began to note concerns about uneven outcomes in the use of graduated sanctioning schemes. Specifically, data across multiple jurisdictions suggested that racial and ethnic minority youth were receiving more restrictive than expected sanctions. The current study in one large urban jurisdiction explored this issue in a group of 2,786 racially and ethnically diverse first-time juvenile male offenders (ages 10-17). Results indicated that race/ethnicity was not a predictor of receiving a more restrictive than expected sanction; however, variables related to offending (offense severity, history of violence), age (older), and parental supervision (inadequate) were significant predictors of such departures.


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