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Becky Pettit, University of Texas at Austin

Racial Polarization in Attitudes Towards the Criminal Legal System
When Sep 12, 2022
from 12:00 PM to 01:00 PM
Where In Person - 1101 Morrill Hall - currently planned
Contact Name
Contact Phone 301-405-6403
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About the Presentation

The very terms used to describe the American system of surveillance, policing, prosecution, courts, and corrections reflect tensions around whether, how, and to whom the system provides access to justice. In some circles, the system is referred to as the criminal justice system, while in others where there is more skepticism that the system is just, the system is referred to as the criminal legal system. Centered in this debate, this paper draws on over three decades of nationally representative survey data from the General Social Survey to investigate racial differences in American views on questions related to crime and punishment. In recent years, there has been an increase in the proportion of Black Americans that support spending on halting the “rising” crime rate but oppose harsher courts and oppose the death penalty, and an increase in White Americans that support spending on halting the “rising” crime rate, support harsher courts, and support the death penalty. We show that question responses are patterned in ways that vary significantly by race and are associated with a range of sociopolitical attitudes and sociodemographic characteristics. These findings draw attention to the centrality of race in conceptualizations of concerns about crime and beliefs about the fairness and function of the criminal legal system. They also highlight crime and justice as a central feature of racial inequality in the contemporary United States. 

About the Speaker

Becky Pettit is the Barbara Pierce Bush Regents Professor of Liberal Arts at the University of Texas at Austin. She is a sociologist, trained in demographic methods, with interests in social inequality broadly defined. Much of Professor Pettit’s past and present research estimates the demographic contours of exposure to the criminal legal system as well as the consequences of system involvement for social and economic inequality and its measurement. Her book, Invisible Men: Mass Incarceration and the Myth of Black Progress (Russell Sage Foundation 2012), investigates how decades of growth in America's prisons and jails obscures basic accounts of racial inequality. Pettit’s research has been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, MSNBC, and numerous other media outlets.  She has been invited to speak at the White House, the Congressional Budget Office, the Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Census Bureau, and many colleges and universities.  Professor Pettit teaches courses on social inequality, methods, and statistics.  She edited Social Problems, the official journal of the Society of the Study of Social Problems, from 2011-2014 and was on the advisory board of the General Social Survey from 2017-2021. She holds a Ph.D. in sociology from Princeton University and a B.A. in sociology from University of California at Berkeley. 

Seminar Format

Location IN PERSON: 1101 Morrill Hall.  We are requesting advanced registration so that we can track capacity.  Please use this link to RSVP.

Location ONLINE VIA ZOOM: Online via Zoom - Zoom Link to Register . Hybrid Zoom Link to Register will be provided one week in advance of the seminar. Upon registration you will receive an automatically generated email with the direct link for the seminar.

COVID-19 Information

MPRC public events for Fall 2022 will be a mix of in person and online via Zoom.  For in person events, all event attendees must follow current protocols

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