A Message From OJJDP
The depiction of justice as a blind-folded figure holding a set of scales illustrates our belief that fair treatmentregardless of raceis 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 FBIs 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 offenders 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.