The purpose of this study was to assess the extent of disproportionality of minority vs. non-minority youth involved with the juvenile justice system. The study examined the impact of racial/ethnic identity on juvenile offenders by comparing the data between minority and non-minority juvenile offenders to determine if there were differences in the types of criminal offenses committed, and the disposition received from the Franklin County Juvenile Court in Ohio.
The data used for this study was obtained from the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, Division of Domestic Relations and Juvenile Branch. The data consisted of 304 unidentifiable records for youth that had contact with the Franklin County Juvenile Court in Ohio. The data analyzed was for the years 2006 through 2008.
A Chi-square test of independence was used to compare groups and to determine if interactions were statistically significant. The Chi-square results of the study concluded that minority youths were somewhat more likely than non-minority youths to commit public order offenses and property offenses, based on the expected count and the observed count. Minority youths committed 13.3 more public order offenses than expected, and 5.4 more property offenses than expected. Of the total public order offenses, minority youth accounted for 67.2% as compared to 32.8% of non-minority youth. Of the total property offenses, minority youth accounted for 65.5% as compared to 34.5% of non-minority youth. The data also indicated that minority youth were less likely than non-minority youth to commit person offenses, based on the expected count and the observed count. However, although minority youth committed 16 fewer person offenses than expected, the ratio of person offenses when compared to non-minority youth was 55.9% to 44.1% respectively. In fact, for each type of offense committed, the ratio of minority juvenile offenders to non-minority juvenile offenders was higher.
Additionally, minority youths were more likely than non-minority youths to receive incarceration and county supervision, based on the expected count and the observed count. Minority youths were incarcerated 4.8 times more than expected, and received county supervision 11.3 times more than expected. Of the total number of youth who were incarcerated, minority youth accounted for 80% as compared to 20% of nonminority youth. Of the total number of youth under county supervision, minority youth accounted for 73% as compared to 27% of non-minority youth. Also, minority youth were less likely than non-minority youth to receive sanctions/restitution, based on the expected count and the observed count. Non-minority youth were given sanctions and allowed to make financial restitution 10.6 times more than expected, while minority youth were afforded the same disposition 10.6 times less than expected. These sanctions and restitution included completing community service, paying fees/fines, and participating in the Juvenile Restitution Program.
Minority juvenile offenders (youth under the age of 18) face great challenges with regard to fairness in the current justice system. Thus, the expected results of this study would be to strengthen the awareness of the need for fair and equitable delivery of justice for juveniles. This study also provides recommendations for treatment and service delivery to juveniles to include referrals and counseling as opposed to incarceration and other harsh penalties. This information can be used by counselors, educators, judges, prosecutors, political leaders, service providers, community groups and parents, to enable them to see these biases and work to eliminate the disparity in inequitable penalties that are handed down to youth.