This article examines how justice-involved black adults experience mistreatment by justice system actors in two cities, one in New Jersey and the other in Ohio; it uses procedural injustice as a backdrop for interrogating how the criminal legal system engages in delegitimizing actions and provoking noncompliance to enable social control.
Racial disparities and a corresponding lack of trust have been documented within the criminal legal system. In response, criminal legal system actors have sought to strengthen the legitimacy of their agencies. However, legitimizing these agencies can be problematic. Some argue that the current criminal legal system continues the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow as blacks are disproportionately policed and incarcerated. As a framework, procedural injustice can offer a unique backdrop and interrogate ways in which the criminal legal system engages in delegitimizing actions that provoke noncompliance and enable social control. Using a procedural injustice lens, this study examines how justice-involved black adults experience mistreatment by justice system actors. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 84 black adults in Newark and Cleveland. Study findings offer a comprehensive account of how participants experience procedural injustice as arrestees, defendants, and incarcerated persons. More specifically, participant narratives describe deliberately antagonistic, abusive, and dehumanizing treatment by justice-system agents—often depicted as racially motivated. Participant accounts also describe this mistreatment as occurring in a context of coercion and powerlessness and as being institutionally sanctioned. Implications for the preservation of racial hierarchies, research, practice, and community psychology are discussed. Publisher Abstract Provided
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