Design, Sites, and Data Sources
The New Jersey Criminal Justice Reform Advancing Racial Equity Study will use two methods to assess racial equity across the state of New Jersey, including in each of its 21 counties:
Impact Study. With a sample consisting of all arrests in the state of New Jersey from 2014 through 2017 (nearly 900,000 in total) from criminal justice administrative records, the impact study will use an interrupted time series design to assess whether Black people with open cases and White people with open cases experienced similar effects on key outcomes (for example, on arrests and pretrial detention) and to what extent the reforms led to changes in disparities between the two racial groups (which together represent more than 90 percent of arrests). While the criminal justice system can have harmful effects on the health and well-being of people of any race, its disproportionate harm towards Black people, families, and communities are especially salient and extensive. Meanwhile, due to the historical racial structure in the U.S., White people with open cases may have more resources to navigate their cases and be less likely to face racialized harms. We will assess these impacts statewide, as well as the extent to which effects vary across each of the state’s 21 counties.
Stakeholder-Guided Qualitative Study. This component will focus on counties where we see the most positive improvements in racial equity in the impact study. Through interviews with a wide array of stakeholders and document reviews, we will identify potential mechanisms of change—for example, local reforms, court and police cultures, community engagement approaches, and community characteristics—that may explain any improvements in racial equity that we observe. By doing so, this project will lay a groundwork for future research that could further evaluate the potential solutions identified.
Participatory action research-informed methods will contribute to each stage of the process. With support from the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, the research team will seek advice and guidance from a lived experience advisory group throughout the study. The aim of this approach is to conduct more culturally responsive research by including the priorities, perspectives, and concerns of those with lived experience and fostering a sense of self-determination and empowerment in the communities we are studying.