Criminal Justice & Safety

The Impact of Race and Ethnicity on Points of Release from the Juvenile Justice System

Christine Martin, Criminology, Law & Justice

Erica Meiners, Northeastern Illinois University
2011- 2012 Visiting Scholar

In diverse political contexts the symbolic figure of the Child is consistently used to expand or contract the carceral state. It also shapes public policies that have complex impacts on the lives of many, including those that qualify as children. This project examines how those complexities are obfuscated by representations of the Child, and invites those invested in safe futures without increased investments in policing, prisons and borders to rigorously examine how the artifact of the Child circulates in our organizing and scholarship.

Alan Dettlaff, Social Work

How do the criminal justice system and the child welfare system overlap? Criminal justice reforms of the 1980s and 1990s increased police presence on the streets, introduced longer prison sentences, and a longer wait time for parole eligibility. These policies have disproportionately impacted people of color, with estimates indicating that nearly two-thirds of the incarcerated population is non-White. As a result of this growing prison population, more children experience the arrest and incarceration of a parent.


Some degree of overlap between the criminal justice system and the child welfare system is expected because the risk factors for arrest and incarceration and child maltreatment are similar. Researchers have therefore asked: does the arrest and incarceration of parents directly cause children’s placement in foster care? This report examines CPS case records, placement policies, criminal recidivism and its relationship to child abuse cases, and makes suggestions for policy, practice and future research.


Download the Scholar Spotlight summary of this report.

Henrika McCoy, College of Social Work
2013-2014 Faculty Fellow

In her 2013 Faculty Fellowship, McCoy will synthesize research she has already collected about mental health, race, gender, age, geography, and the juvenile justice system to:

  • Influence how juvenile offenders with mental health needs are perceived by contributing new knowledge about patterns or typologies which reflect combinations of mental health distress and offending behaviors
  • Articulate the importance of incorporating a juvenile’s mental health needs into sentencing guidelines & practices
  • Provide information to legislators and judges to influence what factors are considered when creating & implementing sentencing practices.