Racial disparities in arrests in the United States are well-documented. Particularly, young black males are arrested at inordinately higher rates than other demographics. In this research, we investigated whether an unresearched variable—drug availability—could explain these discrepancies found in the US criminal justice system. Research suggests race is an extralegal (unrelated to the law) factor associated with arrest rates. Until this study, no research has investigated whether an individuals' access to illegal drugs might be related to likelihood of being arrested. If illicit substances might be more easily obtained by individuals of a specific race, could this explain inequalities in arrest rates? We hypothesized in alignment with contemporary literature, that drug availability could not explain these discrepancies, and are more so associated with racial biased policing and reporting of crimes. To answer our research question, we analyzed nationally representative data from the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Results show drug availability cannot explain racial discrepancies in arrests. While our research found that presence of outdoor, illegal-drug markets were strongly associated with higher arrest rates, race was independently associated with higher arrest rates among the black population. This research contributes to scientific literature that suggests the US criminal justice system acts with racial bias, in that black people are arrested at inordinately higher rates than white people because their skin color
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Master of Arts (M.A.)
College of Sciences
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Open Access)
Hellmuth, Robert, "Drug Availability and Disparities in Arrests" (2020). Electronic Theses and Dissertations, 2020-. 55.