Prior research indicates that there are racial disparities throughout the criminal justice system, including the juvenile justice system, and that decision-makers may use stereotypes when determining guilt and deciding on sentences for juveniles. We used a mock juror study design in which participants were randomly assigned to read one of four trial summaries of an assault committed by either a White juvenile or Latinx juvenile, with the victim being a White juvenile or Latinx juvenile. The participants were asked to provide a verdict and sentencing decision and explain why they chose the sentence that they did. They were also tasked with explaining whether they would view the case in the same way if the offender was an adult. Lastly, participants evaluated both the offender and victim on both positive and negative traits. We hypothesized that the participants would give harsher sentences to the Latinx offender, that the Latinx offender would receive a more similar sentence to an adult, and that participants with prior juror experience would make less stereotyped judgments. However, there were no differences in sentence length and severity among the White and Latinx offender in the study and the likelihood of the offender receiving a lesser or greater sentence as an adult did not differ among conditions. Participants with prior juror experience used less stereotypical language in their sentence explanations, supporting our third hypothesis. This research has important implications, including highlighting the presence of sentence disparities in prior studies and generating avenues for future research.
Dr. Ashley Hansen-Brown, Thesis Advisor
Dr. Michael Root, Committee Member
Dr. Joseph Schwab, Committee Member
Copyright and Permissions
Original document was submitted as an Honors Program requirement. Copyright is held by the author.
Bloem, Cali. (2021). Are We Giving Them a Fair Chance? Racial Stereotypes and the Juvenile Justice System. In BSU Honors Program Theses and Projects. Item 457. Available at: https://vc.bridgew.edu/honors_proj/457
Copyright © 2021 Cali Bloem