Stereotypes influence beliefs about transfer and sentencing of juvenile offenders

Despite sharp drops in juvenile crime since the mid-1980s, punitive policies regarding juveniles who commit serious offenses still exist. We assessed beliefs about two such practices: transferring offenders from the juvenile justice to the criminal justice system, and subjecting them to sentences of...

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Published in:Psychology, crime & law
Main Author: Greene, Edie (Author)
Other Authors: Woody, William Douglas (Author); Duke, Lauren
Format: Electronic Article
Language:English
Published: 2017
In:Psychology, crime & law
Year: 2017, Volume: 23, Issue: 9, Pages: 841-858
Online Access: Volltext (Resolving-System)
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Summary:Despite sharp drops in juvenile crime since the mid-1980s, punitive policies regarding juveniles who commit serious offenses still exist. We assessed beliefs about two such practices: transferring offenders from the juvenile justice to the criminal justice system, and subjecting them to sentences of life without parole (LWOP). We examined whether stereotypes about juvenile offenders - the extent to which people believe they are dispositionally violent superpredators versus economically and socially impoverished wayward youth - influence support for these policies. We measured 321 participants’ beliefs about the causes of juvenile crime and juveniles’ potential for recidivism and rehabilitation. Using vignette methodology and actual case facts, we described a 13-, 17-, or 21-year-old offender who murdered a stranger or abusive parent, and asked whether he should be transferred to criminal court and sentenced to LWOP. As endorsement of the superpredator stereotype increased, so did support for these practices. Offenders who murdered an abusive parent were shown more leniency. Older offenders were generally treated harsher, except by people with strong superpredator stereotypes who, on the issue of LWOP appropriateness, did not distinguish among juveniles of different ages. Findings suggest that stereotypes can influence judgments in cases involving juveniles and indirectly affect policy-making about juvenile offending.
ISSN:1477-2744
DOI:10.1080/1068316X.2017.1332194