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Growing up Male in Oakland

rios.jpgSociologist Victor Rios revisits in his childhood in Punished: Policing the Lives of Black and Latino Boys .

From the Chronicle of Higher Education:

With Punished, Rios joins an expanding cadre of social scientists who lament the directions that juvenile justice has taken in the United States in recent decades. He argues that in an era when the United States has achieved world-record levels of incarceration, of young people as well as adults, the widespread adoption of severe, hastily adopted get-tough-on-crime policies in the 1980s and 1990s has gone hand in hand with the vilification and persecution of black and Latino youths.

Rios witnessed rogue officers, along with overwhelmed school officials, hustle countless youths down a steep decline into the criminal-justice system. Authority figures harassed or demeaned the boys, often merely because they were presumed to be bad based on their racial or ethnic identity. Police often beat youths as young as 12 and falsely branded many as gang members, a dire development in California where an individual's inclusion on a statewide gang database frequently leads to prosecution as an adult and lengthened prison sentences.

A lot of police officers "seemed to sympathize with the poverty and trauma that many young people experienced," Rios writes. "However, in an attempt to uphold the law and maintain order, officers often took extreme punitive measures with youths perceived as deviant or criminal." He calls this a "paradox of control."

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