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Perceptions on Injustice Revisited: A Test of Hagan et al.'s Comparative Conflict Theory

NCJ Number
Journal of Crime and Justice Volume: 31 Issue: 1 Dated: 2008 Pages: 35-57
Kevin Buckler; James D. Unnever; Francis T. Cullen
Date Published
This study tested Hagan et al.’s (2005) comparative conflict theory (perceptions of injustice) providing partial support for this perspective and suggesting that, at least provisionally, comparative theory merits further investigations and theoretical development.
The data from this study indicates that there is indeed a racial divide in perceived justice system-based injustice between Whites and prominent minority groups. As predicted by the theory, the degree of perceived injustice is arranged on a pitch. Whites are least likely to question the legitimacy of the justice system, with Hispanics manifesting higher levels of perceive injustice. African-Americans clearly reveal the most injustice. These findings lend support to Hagan et al.’s (2005) proposition that because of their violent oppression by the justice system during their enslavement and its aftermath, African-Americans are particularly wary of claims of equal justice. The Hagan et al.’s theory is a model for explaining racial-ethnic differences in perceptions of injustice, especially among Whites, Hispanics, and African-Americans. The results replicate Hagan et al.’s finding that prior contact with the criminal justice system increases perceptions of injustice. Hagan et al.’s (2005) comparative conflict theory represents an important theoretical advance. Using data from the 2000 Public Opinion on the courts in the United States survey, this study provides a partial test of core propositions of the “comparative conflict theory.” Table, notes, references