Article Review Race and Crime Issues

Michael J. Lieber in his article Disproportionality minority confinement (DMC) of youth An analysis of state and federal efforts to address the issue seeks to determine through research a number of related questions related to the confinement of racial groups in a variety of secure facilities.  His research is connected to the Federal Formula Grants Program, in particular the DMC component of the program, and the overriding objective is to determine the efficacy of these legislative schemes in terms of state compliance.  To this end, Lieber reviews the legislative history and explains how development and implementation of the legislative mandate has been and continues to be affected by a variety of political considerations.  The federal legislation requires states to engage in independent research programs in order to determine whether DMC exists in a particular state and to what extant in addition, states are expected to engage in good faith efforts to determine the causes of any existing DMC and to thereafter develop and put in place strategies designed to address that states particular DMC circumstances.  All of these requirements, as the other points out, derive originally from the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974.

This research, however, is limited to two particular features of the legislative mandate more specifically, Liebers research is intended to investigate identification of the extent of minority overrepresentation in states juvenile justice systems and assessment of the causes of DMC (Lieber, 2002, p. 3).  He concludes with respect to the overrepresentation of minorities that DMC exists in many states but that the quality of state reporting has been inconsistent.  These quality and consistency problems have made it difficult to draw firm conclusions other than to note that DMC exists as a general matter.  He asserts, based on the available data, that racial bias probably plays a role in DMC and that racial classifications are relevant to both the existence of DMC and the extant of DMC.  Regarding the second prong of his research, pertaining to causation, Lieber first points out that states often operated on the belief that minorities were overrepresented in the system because they commit more crime andor more serious crime (2002, p. 16) before suggesting that causation is much more nuanced and that states may have been operating pursuant to flawed and incomplete assumptions.  His research is significant because it seems to demonstrate that the states have not properly complied with the federal legislative mandates in a complete and transparent manner it is also significant because it suggests that issues of causation as they pertain to DMC are inadequately understood and require further research.   Finally, Lieber supplements his core research questions by engaging in an additional type of analysis in which he examines and discusses how politics impacts the federal legislation in terms of state efforts and capacities to comply.  Politics, in his view, operate too frequently as an impediment to transparent analysis and implementation.

Lieber includes an essentially descriptive abstract which provides a very generalized overview of the article without any substantive conclusions.  A reader of the abstract would not know the research conclusions and would be required to skim or read the entire article to determine its academic position and whether the article relates to a particular readers academic interests.  The abstract might have been more effective had Lieber included a sentence or two stating the overarching conclusions in addition to the research questions and emphasis.  The introduction is more effective because it contextualizes the research in terms of the history of the relevant legislation and the underlying policy objectives of the federal legislation.  More, it makes explicit the states interests in compliance by stating how funding allocations are in theory dependent on the good faith performance of certain duties.  Although the introduction is brief, it provides the context, the main research questions, and an overview of the articles basic structure.  The literature review seems to have all of the relevant authorities, but it might have been better organized for instance, Lieber waits until the final paragraph of the literature review to state the compelling need for this research by noting that The lack of research to the DMC requirement is puzzling and provides the impetus for the present study (2002, p. 8).  It would have been more logical, and it would have more effectively introduced the literature review, by stating this lack of DMC research in the first paragraph of the literature review rather than in the final paragraph.  Readers need to know about this lack of research at the beginning, before the research is presented and discussed, rather than at the end.

What emerges from this organizational flaw is that readers may very well be forced to read and reread Liebers literature review multiple times in order to attain a form grasp of the research and Liebers organizational purposes.  The research methodology is presented in a much more logical manner.  The sample population for the identification analysis is data drawn from 43 states plus the District of Columbia and the sample population for the assessment analysis is data drawn from 40 states.  He then clearly explains state index values and the various types of secure facilities (including transfers to adult facilities) in order to properly frame the comprehensive nature of his research.  He acknowledges the race model as Pope and Feyerherms (1993) method of review of research conducted on race and decision making (2002, p. 9), he defines what he means with reference to a race effect, and he sets forth his factors.  The results section is perhaps the most well-organized and most clearly presented section of the entire paper.  The identification and assessment results are presented with clear transitions, connected to the literature review and research questions, and summaries are included at the end which effectively encapsulate the salient points of the research.  The most valuable feature of the discussion is the comparative analyses that Lieber engages in order to qualify the overall data and to demonstrate how certain states have adopted slightly different approaches or failed in certain compliance respects.  This shows how the race effects vary for different reasons between and among various states.  Finally, the conclusion attempts to synthesize all of the data in order to support Liebers conclusion that a variety of factors have made compliance flawed and incomplete.  There would appear to be ample evidence from the article to support Liebers conclusions pertaining to race effects and to weak state compliance with the federal legislative mandate.


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