have an impact on sentencing differences, even though legal factors, such as severity of crime or number of prior offenses, accounted for much of the impact.

COMPOUND RISK

So far this chapter has examined the racial disparity evident in the juvenile justice system as a function of differences in behavior on the part of the black and white youth and biases in the juvenile justice system. The evidence adduced has not, of course, provided a complete account of why or how the disparities occur. Yet our review has shown that both behavior and biases contribute to the racial disparities.

Compound effects, even of small disparities, can produce large differences. The degree to which such effects can magnify disparities has been calculated using information from the UCR (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 1997), Snyder and Finnegan's Easy Access to FBI Arrest Statistics 1994-1997 (1999), and Stahl et al.'s Juvenile Court Statistics, 1996 (1999). Figure 6-3 shows the numbers in each category and the probabilities that a juvenile will reach a point in the juvenile justice process separately for black and white juveniles.5 The probabilities that appear on the outside of Figure 6-3 are the proportion of the population under age 18 that reach each stage of the process, shown separately for blacks and whites. (These are referred to as compound probabilities because they are also the product of transitional probabilities.) For example, the probability of a white juvenile being handled formally by the courts is:

and the probability of a black juvenile being handled formally by the courts is:

The probabilities that appear on the inside of Figure 6-3 are the transitional probabilities, computed as the proportion of people at one stage

5  

The panel expresses appreciation to Jane Costello and Alaattin Erkanli of Duke University Medical School and Nancy Crowell of the National Research Council staff for providing the results of this analysis.



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