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Racial Discrimination Linked to Higher Risk of Crime
by DAVID BACKES

Dr. Callie Burt, assistant professor at Arizona State University’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, recently published a report with her colleagues, Ronald L. Simons and Frederick X. Gibbons, linking racial discrimination with criminal behavior. The paper, Racial Discrimination, Ethnic-Racial Socialization, and Crime, reported that experiencing more racial discrimination was linked to a higher risk of crime, specifically in African-American males.

Burt set out to take another look at racism in interpersonal violence and crime to answer the question, what is it about racist actions that can cause an increased risk of crime later in life? She found that racial discrimination primarily does four things to individuals:

  1. It produces distress
  2. It can have depressive effects
  3. It causes disengagement from social norms
  4. It can augment hostile views of relationships

All of these things are acute stressors which can be cumulative in their effects. As we’ve previously reported on this blog, early traumatic stressors are especially detrimental to those who haven’t yet developed effective coping mechanisms. Burt found that criminal behavior was one way to cope with stressors, along with seeking revenge or avoiding the situation through drug use.

For more in-depth findings, the full report is available free online in both PDF and text versions. The American Sociological Review Podcast by SAGE Publications also featured Dr. Callie Burt and interviewed her [MP3 stream] about her findings.


juvenile-justice-system_David-BackesDavid Backes writes the Friday news roundup for Reclaiming Futures and contributes articles about juvenile justice reform and adolescent substance abuse treatment to ReclaimingFutures.org. He has a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Santa Clara University. David works as an account executive for Prichard Communications.