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Film "Criminal Justice" Race, Gender, and University Experience in Students' Perceptions of Racism and Guilt

NCJ Number
217635
Journal
Criminal Justice Review Volume: 32 Issue: 1 Dated: March 2007 Pages: 26-46
Author(s)
Derral Cheatwood; Rebecca D. Petersen
Date Published
March 2007
Annotation
This study examined how college students' race, gender, and university experience were associated with their reactions to viewing the film "Criminal Justice," which portrays the criminal justice processing of an urban crime, leaving the viewer to decide whether the charged suspect, a Black male, is guilty of robbing and slashing a Hispanic, crack-using prostitute.
Abstract
Among the sample of 835 students who viewed the film, those who perceived racism in the criminal justice system's treatment of the Black defendant were more likely to decide he was not guilty of the charged crime. White students, both male and female, who perceived racism in the criminal justice system's treatment of the defendant were more likely to find him not guilty. Male students, regardless of race, who perceived racism in the treatment of the defendant also believed he was not guilty. On the other hand, Black females who perceived racism in the criminal justice system were more likely to find the defendant guilty. The latter finding suggests that Black females identified with the victim and perhaps her experience of being victimized by a Black male. This identification with the victim diminished their sympathy and advocacy for the Black male defendant, even though they perceived his treatment by the criminal justice system as racially discriminatory. The study sample contained 835 students in large criminal justice classes at 2 universities. One university was in an eastern, predominately Black city. The second university was in a southwestern, predominately Hispanic city. 8 tables and 41 references