Presumed CriminalBlack Youth and the Justice System in Postwar New York

Presumed CriminalBlack Youth and the Justice System in Postwar New York

Carl Suddler

Print publication date: 2020

ISBN: 9781479847624

Publisher: NYU Press

Abstract

Presumed Criminal is a provocative analysis of youth, race, and crime in New York City from the 1930s to the 1960s that shows how shifts in the criminal justice system bolstered authoritative efforts that criminalized black youths. Grounded in extensive research, it is a startling examination of a historical past that appears to be anything but past.The criminalization of black youth is inseparable from its racialized origins. Thus, when the federal government entered the debate on how to address juvenile delinquency in the United States, it occurred at a critical juncture when Progressive-era modes of rehabilitation were being replaced by disparate means of punishment. Black youths bore the brunt of the transition. In New York City, increased state surveillance of predominantly black communities compounded arrest rates into the post–World War II period, which gave reason to become tough on crime. Extreme police practices, such as stop-and-frisk, combined with media sensationalism, cemented black youths as the primary cause for concern. Consequently, before the War on Crime, black youths already faced a punitive justice system that restricted their social mobility and categorically branded them as criminal—a stigma they continue to endure.