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Is Our Criminal Justice System Too Aggressive?

2014 April 24
by Eric Horowitz

I have a new piece in Pacific Standard about research suggesting that fear of the criminal justice system can lead people to opt out of institutions that collect personal information. This could mean forgoing medical care at a hospital or deciding not to open a bank account.

While the study has all the standard caveats that come will correlational research, the results paint a bleak picture:

Even after controlling for demographics, income, health, and behaviors like drug use or carrying a weapon, respondents who had any type of contact with the criminal justice system were 31 percent more likely than those who had no contact to not obtain medical care when they needed it. Even people who were merely stopped by police were 33 percent more likely to not seek medical care. 


The findings tell a convincing story about how fear of the criminal justice system can lead to negative health, financial, and educational outcomes. And because contact with the system is more frequent in low-income and minority communities, these negative outcomes ought to hit them disproportionately hard. A perfect storm of data collection and aggressive criminal justice policies can help to create a society that’s toxic for social mobility.

Go read the whole thing!

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