The Child as Other: Race and Differential Treatment in the Juvenile Justice System
Posted: 14 Oct 2002
There are significant racial disparities in the juvenile justice system. African American, Latino, and Native American children receive much harsher treatment than do European American children. They are more likely to be arrested, charged, receive more severe sentences, and caused to stand trial as adults. In this article, the author details the racial disparities that exist at the intake, detention, petitioning, waiver, adjudication and disposition stages of the juvenile justice process. The author then argues that this disparate treatment results from a process of "othering," which has deep historic and cultural roots. Using insights gleaned from postmodernism and critical theory, feminist theory, anticolonialist studies and African-centered scholarship, the article develops a concept of otherness that is then applied to practices within the juvenile justice system. This methodology is used to illustrate how the juvenile justice system may be employed as an instrument of repression and control when children within the system are perceived as the children of the other. The author argues that perceptions of otherness affect the behavior of discretionary actors within the juvenile justice system in profound ways and that, consequently, otherness provides greater explanatory power for the racial disparities that exist than can be provided by theories of either retribution or rehabilitation.
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