Race and Social Problems

, 1:218 | Cite as

Racial Disparities in Early Criminal Justice Involvement

  • Robert D. Crutchfield
  • Martie L. SkinnerEmail author
  • Kevin P. Haggerty
  • Anne McGlynn
  • Richard F. Catalano


Criminologists have long reported the existence of racial disparity in the criminal justice system, but the important question is why. While some argue that observed differences are a consequence of more criminal behavior among minorities, the weight of the evidence indicates that this is but a partial explanation. In this paper, we study data from a sample of juveniles to examine how racial differences in early police contact, and important social environments—family, school, and neighborhoods—affect later contact and arrests, controlling for self-reported delinquency. We find that early (in middle school) contact with police is an important predictor of later (high school) arrests. Also we found that, in addition to being male and living in a low-income family, children who have parents who have a history of arrest, who have experienced school disciplinary actions, who have delinquent peers, and who are in networks with deviant adults are more likely to have problems with law enforcement. These factors help to explain racial differences in police contacts and arrests.


Race disparity Police contacts Environment 



This paper was supported by Grant # R01- DA121645-02 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the funding agencies.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert D. Crutchfield
    • 1
  • Martie L. Skinner
    • 2
    Email author
  • Kevin P. Haggerty
    • 2
  • Anne McGlynn
    • 2
  • Richard F. Catalano
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  2. 2.Social Development Research Group, School of Social WorkUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA

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