Understanding the Psychological and Structural Barriers People of Color Face in the Criminal Justice System

By Kelly Capatosto, Research Associate


At the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, our mission is to ensure that all people and communities have the opportunity to succeed. As part of this mission, our Institute recognizes two barriers to opportunity that people of color may face while interacting with various systems or institutions. These two barriers are Race and Cognition and Structural Racialization.

By viewing interactions of the criminal justice system through the lens of each of these barriers, we can identify how each uniquely contributes to racial inequity in incarceration outcomes. In tandem, these lenses can serve as a tool for explaining how racial inequity can persist in the absence of intentional prejudice or discrimination.

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