Data Against Youth of Color in the Information Policing Era: How Gang Databases are Deepening Inequality

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Date
2020
Authors
Triola, Sydney Mariel
Advisor
Shilton, Katie
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Abstract
This paper examines how labeling gang members without consistent criteria for inclusion in law enforcement’s gang databases systemically leads to negative outcomes, also known as data violence. The concept of data violence allows for an analysis of the systemic consequences of the overrepresentation of adolescents of color in gang databases. Current gang data collection practices within law enforcement have at least one major problem, a culture of presumed criminality when interacting with adolescents of color. Data maintenance processes were also found by Propublica to have inconsistent labeling practices. Additionally, when looking through the data made available by Propublica, it is clear that there is disregard for a law entitled, 28 C.F.R. § 23. This law mandates all gang database entries that have not been renewed as a result of a criminal investigation, conviction, or adjudication, must be destroyed after five years. Another major finding, particularly emphasized by Forman and Vitale, is that police gang-tracking initiatives have an overly punitive focus for individual adolescents. In order to mitigate the need for overly punitive practices, the author recommends additional research tracking demographic trends within push factors, also known as reasons why a person might be motivated to join a gang, in order to better utilize intervention methods. Ida B. Wells and the National Black Census serve as examples of how people and communities of color have managed their own datasets when law enforcement’s criminal justice data inaccurately overrepresented their community members as criminals. The author concludes that libraries have an opportunity to disrupt data violence through education initiatives for both victims and perpetrators of data violence. Future research should continue to analyze and improve potential interventions for this data violence, both inside and outside of law enforcement.
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