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Justice in America
The Separate Realities of Blacks and Whites

Part of Cambridge Studies in Public Opinion and Political Psychology

  • Date Published: June 2010
  • availability: In stock
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521134750

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About the Authors
  • As reactions to the O. J. Simpson verdict, the Rodney King beating, and the Amadou Diallo killing make clear, whites and African Americans in the United States inhabit two different perceptual worlds, with the former seeing the justice system as largely fair and color blind and the latter believing it to be replete with bias and discrimination. Drawing on data from a nation-wide survey of both races, the authors tackle two important questions in this book: what explains the widely differing perceptions, and why do such differences matter? They attribute much of the racial chasm to the relatively common personal confrontations that many blacks have with law enforcement – confrontations seldom experienced by whites. And more importantly, the authors demonstrate that this racial chasm is consequential: it leads African Americans to react much more cynically to incidents of police brutality and racial profiling, and also to be far more skeptical of punitive anti-crime policies ranging from the death penalty to three-strikes laws.

    • Uses innovative survey experiments to uncover how Whites and Blacks formulate and use their widely differing views of the fairness of the justice system in the US
    • Explores the personal characteristics of respondents of both races as well as various situational components of particular anti-crime policies (e.g. various arguments against capital punishment)
    • Allows us to understand why some individuals (but not others) become polarized in their beliefs; and why some phenomena (but not others) generate a polarized response from citizens
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    Reviews & endorsements

    “After decades of conjecture and speculation about a fundamental question about justice, Mark Peffley and John Hurwitz, finally, provide a rigorous and definitive analysis of how the different realities of African Americans and whites influence their perceptions of justice and their relation to the legal system. Through the use of new data collected explicitly to explore conceptions of justice and applying the latest experimental techniques, the racial differences in attitudes toward crime and justice are deep and seemingly inexorable. Justice in America makes clear the larger consequences and duplicity that come from individuals who are most must vulnerable to crime and who are most dependent on the legal system to also believe system is stacked against them. We are taught that fundamental beliefs about justice and punitive policies are at stack.”
    —Darren Davis, University of Notre Dame

    “Justice in America is an authoritative account of the racial divide in public opinion about the American criminal justice system. Mark Peffley and Jon Hurwitz trace the divide to differential experiences of discrimination by law enforcement and, as a consequence, divergent views on the fundamental fairness of the police and courts. The insights that emerge from this ambitious study—namely, that it is beliefs about fairness, more so than beliefs about race, that separate blacks and whites in the domain of crime and punishment—demand attention from scholars and policymakers alike.”
    —Claudine Gay, Harvard University

    “With rigorous and innovative scholarship, Peffley and Hurwitz demonstrate the enormous gulf between whites’ and blacks’ experiences and perceptions of the American criminal justice system. What is more, they show how these perceptions generate a vast racial divide in understandings of crime and anti-crime policies in the US. An eloquent study that anyone interested how race continues to shape Americans’ lives will find indispensable.”
    —Martin Gilens, Princeton University

    “Justice in America takes on a controversial subject with elegance, creativity, and thoroughness. I learned a lot reading this important book. It is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding the disparate worldviews of Black and White Americans.”
    —Vincent L. Hutchings, University of Michigan

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    Product details

    • Date Published: June 2010
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521134750
    • length: 276 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 153 x 15 mm
    • weight: 0.39kg
    • contains: 20 b/w illus. 13 tables
    • availability: In stock
  • Table of Contents

    1. Introduction
    2. Racial bias in the justice system: reality and perception
    3. The role of fairness
    4. The consequences of fairness: polarized reactions to police brutality and racial profiling
    5. The consequences of fairness: support for punitive crime policies
    6. Conclusions
    Appendix A. National survey and survey items
    Appendix B. Examining reciprocal effects of unfair treatment and neighborhood discrimination.

  • Instructors have used or reviewed this title for the following courses

    • Criminology & Public Policy
    • Introduction to Ethnic Studies
    • Judicial Process
    • Law, Politics, and Society
    • Political Psychology
    • The Criminal Justice System
    • The Politics of Race and Ethnicity
  • Authors

    Mark Peffley, University of Kentucky
    Mark Peffley is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Kentucky. He is co-editor of Perception and Prejudice: Race and Politics in the U.S. (1998) and the journal Political Behavior. His articles have appeared in numerous journals, including American Political Science Review, American Journal of Political Science, Journal of Politics, International Studies Quarterly, and Political Psychology.

    Jon Hurwitz, University of Pittsburgh
    Jon Hurwitz is currently a Professor of Political Science at the University of Pittsburgh. He is co-editor of Perception and Prejudice: Race and Politics in the U.S. (1998) and the journal Political Behavior. His articles have appeared in numerous journals, including American Political Science Review, American Journal of Political Science, Journal of Politics, International Studies Quarterly, and Political Psychology.

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