Thursday, April 8, 2010

Pitt Prof. Addresses Race in U.S. Justice System

A University of Pittsburgh professor says differences in attitudes may lead African-Americans to be more suspicious of police and judges.
Jon Hurwitz specializes in the study of public opinion and has focused his research the last 12 years on race and crime.
Hurwitz says although African-Americans and whites view the same criminal justice statistics and the same media reports, the two races perceive justice through a different lens.
The professor says bad personal experiences with police lead many blacks to be cynical about the justice system, while most whites don’t have that stigma.

Hurwitz, the author of "Justice in America: The Separate Realities of Blacks and Whites," says he conducted a survey in which he asked groups of whites if they supported the death penalty. He says he told some of them beforehand that the death penalty is racially discriminatory.

"Remind many whites that the death penalty is racially discriminatory, and they like the death penalty much more," says Hurwitz.

Hurwitz says although attitudes about racial discrimination in the justice system change glacially, policies are changing right now. For example, Hurwitz pointed to movement to repeal the ‘hundred to one’ policy. Under this law, one gram of crack cocaine (used predominantly in black neighborhoods), lands one the same sentence as 100 grams of powder cocaine, used mostly in white communities.

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