Examining the Effects of Race/Ethnicity and Race Relations on Public Opinion about the Overrepresentation of Black People in U.S. Prisons

Maisha Cooper, Alexander H. Updegrove, Shaun L. Gabbidon, George E. Higgins, Hillary Potter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to determine whether persons of different racial/ethnic backgrounds differ in their perceptions of the role racial discrimination plays in the overrepresentation of Black people in the U.S. prison system. The paper also tested the gradient hypothesis of comparative conflict theory, which predicts Black people perceive the greatest amount of racial discrimination, followed by Latinx and white people, respectively. This study also tested whether perceptions of race relations between Black, Latinx, and white people influenced the role participants thought racial discrimination played in Black people’s overrepresentation. Nationally representative Gallup Poll data were used. Results partially supported the gradient hypothesis. Black people were more likely than Latinx and white people to perceive racial discrimination to explain Black people’s overrepresentation in prison, but Latinxs’ views did not differ from whites’. Participants who perceived poorer relations between Black, Latinx, and white people were more likely to consider racial discrimination to explain Black people’s overrepresentation. Findings suggest Black people and those who perceive poorer race relations are most likely to support criminal justice reform efforts aimed at reducing racial disparities in the criminal justice system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalVictims and Offenders
Volume16
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Health(social science)
  • Applied Psychology
  • Law

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