Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Juvenile Justice Decisions: The Role of Community and Court Characteristics

Travis Anderson-Bond, University of Washington
Christine E.W. Bond, University of Washington
Scott Desmond, University of Washington
George Bridges, University of Washington

A notable conclusion of research on race and ethnic disparities in sentencing has been inconsistent race effects. As pointed at by Chricos and Crawford (1995), inconsistent findings themselves may be indicative of the contextual nature of race effects in criminal justice processing. This study explores the interaction of community and court characteristics to identify under what conditions race makes a difference in legal decision-making. Using juvenile justice and census data across 39 counties in Washington State, this study estimates a multilevel model to assess the influence of race on within and between jurisdiction differences in the decision to detain before trial, and the decision to imprison. As there is much discretion in the juvenile justic system, we may expect these contextual effects to be more apparen.

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Updated 05/20/2006