Race Specific Fear of Teenagers and Support for Harsh Measures to Deal With Juvenile Crime

Ranee McEntire, Florida State University
Ted Chiricos, Florida State University

The "get tough" philosophy that characterizes the treatment of adult criminals has extended to youthful offenders as well. In Florida, as elsewhere, juveniles are more often waived to adult court, locked up for longer periods of time, and locked in facilities that resemble adult institutions. Recent years have also been characterized by an increasingly racialized image of crime. That is, popular and media discourse on crime and punishment commonly connects race with the threat of crime. It has been suggested that one reason for the strong support for punitive policies is the popular belief that crime is a predominantly black male phenomenon. This study examines the link between race specific crime fears and support for punitive measures for dealing with juvenile offenders. Using a 1997 statewide sample of 2250 Florida residents, we hypothesize that the more worry respondents express about the prospect of being approached by black or Hispanic teenagers at night, the more support they will have for harsh measures to deal with juvenile crime. Regression estimates will control for fear of crime, whether or not the respondent has children, racial prejudice, demographic variables, and other factors related to punitive attitudes.

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Updated 05/20/2006