Race, neighborhood context, and risk prediction

Olaoluwa Olusanya, Jacinta M. Gau

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4 Citations (SciVal)


The role of neighborhood influence and context is largely absent from the literature on risk and prediction. In this paper, we argue that the differential treatment of black and white suspects, defendants, and offenders may result from the social and spatial mismatch, or separation, between both groups. This mismatch, in turn, has implications for attitudes towards members of both racial groups in the criminal justice system. Black neighborhoods are locked in a cycle of disadvantage in which certain structural characteristics - concentrated disadvantage, residential instability, high crime rates, racial/ethnic heterogeneity, and implicit racial biases - reciprocally influence each other. We propose a sociocognitive model that combines cognitive mechanisms of implicit racial bias (e.g. attitudes) and structural level (e.g. concentrated disadvantage) factors. The sociocognitive approach to risk prediction stresses the impact that personal beliefs and attitudes have on criminal justice actors' decisions about whom to arrest, prosecute, and imprison and thereby provides a framework for explaining why racial discrimination persists within an atmosphere that prides itself on being neutral and yet is often anything but. Finally, we offer recommendations for reducing racial prejudice and stereotypes, and minimizing their effects on judgments involving risk.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)159-175
Number of pages17
JournalCriminal Justice Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jul 2012


  • criminal justice system
  • prediction
  • race
  • reform
  • risk


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