Young People Have “Little Confidence' in Justice System


Most of our nation's youth—deeply divided by race—don't have confidence in our nation's justice system or trust their local police to do the right thing, according to a national poll of 18-29 year olds released today by Harvard's Institute of Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government.

African-American youth had the deepest distrust in the nation's criminal justice institutions, with 79% of those polled expressing little to no trust of their local police department to do the “right” thing.

Hispanic youth weren't far behind, with 62% of those polled expressing little or no trust in their local police force. In stark contrast, just 31 % of the white youth polled said they had little to no trust in their police force.

However, groups were evenly split on the U.S. judicial system's ability to “fairly judge people without bias for race and ethnicity.

Two-thirds of black youth were less confident in the judicial system to judge fairly, but white youth were also worried about the judicial system, with 43% of those polled agreeing with the statement that the judicial system did not fairly judge people.

Almost two-third of young people who identified as Republicans said they were confident about the judicial system's fairness, while youth self-identifying as Democrats were split, with a little over half believing the system was fair.

“This is a more cynical generation when it comes to institutions,” said John Dell Volpe, the director of polling, in a press conference call releasing the results.

At a time when police shootings of unarmed black men across the country has dominated the news cycle and spawned a national movement #blacklivesmatter, youth remain wary of seeing real change in the criminal justice system.

While there was an even split in supporting public protests against the police shootings, an overwhelming percentage (59%) are skeptical that #blacklivesmatter will influence effective policies to change the criminal justice system.

What most youth did agree on was that police should wear body cameras; 80% thought this would be an effective way to reduce racial inequalities in the criminal justice system.

Sexual assault was also front and center among youth concerns, with one-third of the young women polled saying they were sexually assaulted or know someone who was sexually assaulted.

The poll also underlined research showing that sexual assault continues to be widely underreported to the authorities: some 40% of the women polled said they did not report an attack. By far, Hispanic women were least likely to report an attack to the police.

Over 3,000 youth were polled on questions of criminal justice and other pressing issues, including politics, climate change and terrorism by the Harvard Institute of Politics between March 18-April 1.

For a full version of the poll, please click HERE.

Cara Tabachnick is managing editor of The Crime Report. She welcomes your comments.

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