Just des(s)erts? The racial polarization of perceptions of criminal injustice

Scot Wortley*, John Hagan, Ross Macmillan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

112 Scopus citations


Sociologists have long been interested in how reactions to deviance influence social order and consensus. However, classic statements on this subject present contrasting hypotheses. This article extends previous work by examining how the extensive media coverage of an interracial homicide influences public attitudes toward the criminal justice system. Initial results indicate that race, education, and police contact directly effect perceptions of criminal injustice. Perceptions of injustice are especially high among well-educated blacks who have had recent contact with the police. Further analysis reveals that the media coverage of the homicide seems temporarily to consolidate public confidence in the police and criminal courts. However, this effect varies by race and education. We discuss the theoretical implications of these findings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)637-676
Number of pages40
JournalLaw and Society Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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