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Racism and Classism in the Youth Justice System: Perspectives of Youth and Staff

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Abstract

Although numerous quantitative studies have examined racial disparity in the youth justice system, studies have ignored the perspectives of youth about whether racism exists within the system. This study used focus groups with system staff and focus groups and individual interviews with system-involved youth of color to explore perceptions of race and class bias within one state's youth justice system. Findings indicate that the majority of both staff and youth perceive that race and class bias are present, and that staff demonstrated apparently unintentional racism and classism during the focus groups. Implications for research and for addressing individual and institutional racism and classism are offered.

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... Similarly, race is very strongly related to sentencing outcomes. Research has documented that minority overrepresentation occurs at all stages of the juvenile justice system: referral, detention, formal charging, adjudication, and disposition [34][35][36][37]. This is referred to as disproportionate minority contact (DMC). ...
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... For example, a healthy relationship is often defined by strong communication (Rosenberg & Chopra, 2015), and therefore the conversation of consent is likely to come up within the realm of healthy relationships (Beres, 2007). Likewise, while racism and classism are distinct constructs, they both describe the discrimination of groups of people, and oftentimes the same people simultaneously experience racism and classism (Aosved & Long, 2006;Holley & VanVleet, 2006). Some content areas overlapped more than others. ...
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