Justice by Geography Revisited: An Empirical Analysis of Structural Factors and the Social Control of Juveniles

Doug Smith, University of Maryland at College Park
Jill Farrell, University of Maryland at College Park

ABSTRACT
While it is well established that juvenile case processing varies from place to place, few studies have tried to empirically establish which geographic structural factors influence this type of social control. The brunt of the literature continues to focus on case-level factors in processing, despite the growing concern about incorporating structural factors into analyses. According to 1985 Pennsylvania juvenile sentencing data, there is substantial variation in the percentage of juveniles adjudicated delinquent at the county level. This study intends to determine what it is about where a youth lives that disadvantages him/her in the juvenile justice system. Using a statewide sample of approximately 12,227 youths processed in Pennsylvania in 1985, we will conduct a contextual analysis using hierarchical linear modeling to determine which structural-level factors influence the amount of control the justice system holds over juveniles, controlling for both legal and extralegal individual-level characteristics.

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Updated 05/20/2006