Kali N. Gross
This essay offers a concise overview of black women’s experiences with early criminal justice, beginning with the colonial period and ending in the early twentieth century. It also identifies aspects of the historiography on black women and crime that merit greater scholarly attention. Historians have examined race and violence, particularly interracial violence, but should also explore intraracial violence in relation to gender, crime, and criminal justice. In an attempt to address some of these gaps, this chapter provides an overview of the incarceration of black women in the United States and explores intraracial intimate partner violence through a late nineteenth-century Philadelphia case. In doing so, it especially examines the conduct and motives of the black woman at the center of the crime.
Scholarship on race, crime, and justice often remains gender blind. Researchers cannot fully understand the influences of race and racism without serious consideration of its gendered dimensions. Distressed minority communities in urban settings have disproportionate rates of violence against women. Structural, organizational, and cultural characteristics heighten gendered risks, including high rates of other crime; male domination of public community spaces; environmental features of neighborhoods; the reluctance of community members to intervene in violence, including the mistreatment of women and girls; acute distrust of the police; and the dominance of cultural norms that support gender inequality and the sexual objectification of young women. Such violence is a critical social problem in need of careful theoretical and policy attention, and is an integral facet of the gendering of racial inequality.
David J. Harding
Disadvantaged neighborhoods can affect criminal behavior, increasing the risk of late-onset juvenile delinquency even for young people not otherwise at risk of delinquent behavior due to their individual characteristics and family circumstances. Growing up in a disadvantaged neighborhood has been linked to other negative adolescent outcomes, such as dropping out of high school and early childbearing, but the mechanisms by which neighborhood disadvantage affects individual outcomes are less well understood. A study drawing on in-depth, unstructured interviews with 60 adolescent boys in three Boston neighborhoods seeks to understand how neighborhood-based violence affects the social and cultural context of a boy’s neighborhood and how this context in turn affects his decision making and outcomes. Two interrelated features of poor urban neighborhoods are critical mechanisms underlying neighborhood effects on adolescent boys: neighborhood violence and cultural heterogeneity. These mechanisms generate institutional distrust, bonds of mutual protection, cross-cohort socialization, negative role models, and the leveling of expectations.
Case Study: Black Cannabis Dealers in a White Welfare State Race, Politics, and Street Capital in Norway
An ethnographic study of a group of young black men dealing cannabis at a drug scene called The River in Oslo demonstrates that accumulation and use of street capital can be seen as responses to processes of social and economic exclusion. In Norway, as elsewhere, many immigrant youths are marginalized by ethnic discrimination, racism, lack of education and job opportunities, and immigration policy. Street capital is a means to gain respect, status, and money. The concept is inspired by French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu and highlights how street culture becomes embodied and emphasizes the practical rationality involved when marginalized youths become involved in crime. Street capital is upheld by and embedded in gangster stories, but the young men also see themselves as victims. There are ongoing shifts between gangster- and oppression discourses; neither represents the “true story” of these men. Ethnographic study of street dealers’ language use demonstrates the complex relationship between street culture and a benevolent Nordic welfare state.
Sara K. Thompson
Most criminological theory and research on the black homicide victimization is grounded in the American context, which raises important generalizability issues given the exceptional level of lethal violence that is used as the standard in this inquiry. This case study examines the social and spatial distribution of black homicide victimization in Toronto, Ontario, Canada between 1988 and 2003. Results suggest that, as in American cities, blacks in Toronto are over-represented as homicide victims and offenders, but there are important differences in the spatial distribution and ecological correlates of this violence. These findings highlight the importance of cross-national research when investigating the generalizability of findings from U.S.-based research on racially disaggregated homicide rates.
Sebastian Roché, Mirta B. Gordon, and Marie-Aude Depuiset
Race and ethnicity are important political issues in France but not important research issues. Even liberals concerned about inequality disagree about the need to study the subject and are reluctant to use racial or ethnic data. Many politicians say they are proud that France ignores matters of race and ethnicity. Whether and to what extent ethnicity is associated with sanctioning for serious crimes by juveniles was investigated in two juvenile courts, in two jurisdictions, over more than 20 years (1984–2005). Logistic regressions were carried out for violent crimes for which juveniles were indicted (“all violent crimes”) and subsequently for two subsets: “nonlethal and nonsexual violence” (acquisitive or not) and “sexual violence” (sexual assaults and rapes). Massive and systematic discrimination based on ethnicity was not found for the overall sample or for the subsamples. The best predictors of severity were the type of crime for which the defendant was indicted and his criminal history. However, there were traces of sentencing discrimination. In one jurisdiction, especially for sexual crimes, race explained a share of sentencing severity.
Colonial processes, indigenous people, and criminal justice systems interact. There are commonalities in the experiences of Indigenous peoples in the white settler societies of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States. Understanding of the over-representation of Indigenous people in crime and victimization statistics needs to be contextualized within the broader framework of the effects of colonization. These effects include long-term social and economic marginalization, and limited recognition of indigenous law and governance. Current criminal justice processes (including risk assessment) continue to single out indigenous peoples as a “crime-prone” population. Indigenous demands for greater recognition of Aboriginal law and greater control over criminal justice decision-making must be taken seriously. Neo-liberalism and “law and order” politics are likely further to entrench the over-representation of indigenous peoples within western criminal justice systems.
Ethnicity and racism feature at each stage of the criminal justice process in the United Kingdom. Some minority ethnic group people are more likely to be victimized, are more likely to be stopped and searched by the police, and are more likely to be arrested. The cumulative effect of disproportionate treatment of black people throughout the criminal justice process is reflected in high numbers of black people in prison. Patterns of crime vary among minority ethnic groups and between them and the white majority, but not in ways that adequately explain imprisonment patterns. Research findings indicate that racism is levelled towards ethnic minority groups and explain ways in which discrimination occurs. Explanations for variations in group patterns of offending and criminal justice system involvement need to take account of differences between black and Asian groups in experiences at each stage of the criminal justice process, and in the migratory contexts within which minority ethnic groups have settled in Britain. These issues have been complicated by the effects of contemporary concerns about terrorism and counter-terrorism—a contemporary insecurity that affects minority ethnic groups to a disproportionate degree.
France has the largest Muslim and Jewish populations in Europe and a long immigration tradition. Official data do not recognize race, ethnicity, or religion as fundamental characteristics of people. For a long time crime data ignored foreigners and non-French immigrants as distinct groups. They are significantly overrepresented among criminal suspects in custody and in prison, though this varies by offense and according to status; an important proportion have violated immigration laws and are not a threat to society. Their overrepresentation may result from lack of fixed residence and the possibility they will not turn up if summoned by a judge. Research on this issue is scant. It is unclear whether disparities represent invidious bias or result from socio-economic disadvantages or differences in records of past criminality. Xenophobia among the broad French public, after declining substantially, is on the rise again, in great part due to the recent economic crisis.
Jacob Stowell and Stephanie DiPietro
Despite a substantial increase in scholarly attention to immigration and crime at both individual and aggregate levels, important gaps in knowledge remain. Much work has focused on the criminal behavior of immigrants, and comparatively little on their victimization. Given political controversies about immigration law reform, the dearth of research on immigrants as crime victims is a critical omission. A comprehensive review of the literature shows no association between increases in the size of the foreign-born population and increased risks to public safety. Analyses of the comparative homicide risks for foreign-born people compared with the American population generally, and for immigrant groups of different national origins, for 1994–2004, a period of exponential growth in the foreign-born population, reveal a number of interesting patterns with respect to immigrant homicide victimization patterns, both between groups and over time.