Stanford University Research Finds Racial Bias in Whites’ Views on Juvenile Sentencing

A study by a group of psychologists at Stanford University finds that Whites are more likely to approve of stiff criminal sentences for juveniles when they are told the offender is Black. The psychologists conducted a study with 735 White Americans. They were given a case study where  a 14-year old male with 17 prior juvenile convictions brutally raped an elderly women. Half the participants in the survey were told the offender was White and half were told the offender was Black.

After reading the case study, participants were asked for their views on sentencing for violent crimes by juveniles. The results showed that participants who had been told the offender was Black were more likely than other participants to support life in prison without parole for juvenile defenders.

Aneeta Rattan, postdoctoral research scholar at Stanford and lead author of the study, stated, “We think about the legal world as having rules and you apply the rules equally to everyone. What we’re really showing is that there’s a potential for that to not be the case.”

The paper, “Race and the Fragility of the Legal Distinction Between Juveniles and Adults,” was published online in PloS ONE.


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