Juvenile Justice Bulletin Banner 2003
   J. Robert Flores, Administrator
April 2003  
Race as a Factor in Juvenile Arrests

Carl E. Pope and Howard N. Snyder



Analysis of Statistical Evidence

How the Data Were Analyzed


NCJ 189180

This Bulletin was prepared under grant number 99–JN–FX–K002 from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, U.S. Department of Justice. This grant was provided to the National Center for Juvenile Justice in support of its National Juvenile Justice Data Analysis Project.

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention is a component of the Office of Justice Programs, which also includes the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, and the Office for Victims of Crime.


A Message From OJJDP

The depiction of justice as a blind-folded figure holding a set of scales illustrates our belief that fair treatment—regardless of race—is integral to the very concept of justice in the United States. What role, if any, does racial bias play in our juvenile justice system?

Although a broad array of research over the past half century has explored the degree to which race impacts the juvenile justice system, the results are mixed. Some studies have found evidence of racial bias, while others have found that race is not a significant factor.

Such diverse findings have contributed to correspondingly distinct perspectives on the present state of juvenile justice. Some observers claim that the juvenile justice system is biased against minority offenders, while others argue that in general the system treats all offenders in an equitable manner.

The authors of this Bulletin focus on a somewhat neglected area of research, i.e., the role that race plays in police decisionmaking. Using statistics from the FBI’s National Incident-Based Reporting System, they compare arrest probabilities of white and nonwhite juveniles for violent crimes. Their investigation finds no direct evidence that an offender’s race affects police decisions to take juveniles into custody in such incidents. Thus, it sheds light on one critical question about race and justice and reminds us that others remain to be answered.



This Bulletin was written by Carl E. Pope, Ph.D., Professor in the Criminal Justice Program at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, and Howard N. Snyder, Ph.D., Director of Systems Research at the National Center for Juvenile Justice. Some information contained in this Bulletin was originally presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Criminology, San Francisco, CA, November 2000.


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