Crime and the Legal System

People who interact with the crime and legal system generally through arrest, prosecution, incarceration, and/or community supervision noted in this report as justice-involved people face many challenges.[1] Decisions made by criminal-legal system actors, including police, prosecutors, and judges, affect whether people accused of crimes end up with a criminal conviction.[2],[3] People who have been incarcerated often have worse health and lower wealth than similarly situated people who were never incarcerated.[4],[5],[6],[7] When someone is convicted of a crime, they can lose the right to vote, the ability to live in certain places, the ability to work in certain jobs, the ability to adjust their immigration status, and the right to partake in federally funded healthcare and education programs.[8] 
 Involvement in the crime and legal system and the associated outcomes often occurs inequitably for people of different race/ethnicity, gender, socio-economic status, and other marginalized and intersectional identities. These inequitable experiences have long-lasting and compounding repercussions on people and communities that, aside from negative consequences for those people and communities, may also perpetuate inequitable practices within the crime and legal system. [9],[10],[11] 
 This section reviews equity indicators related to crime and the legal system: Crime Rate, Hate Crimes, Police Stops and Searches, Juvenile Justice Arrests, and Incarceration Rate.

  1. Simpson, J.M., Huang, L.N., Everett, A.E., Morrissette, D., & Berg, J. (n.d.) Principles of Community-based Behavioral Health Services for Justice-involved Individuals: A Research Based Guide. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Retrieved October 20, 2023 from
  2.   Cole, G. F. (1970). The decision to prosecute. Law & Society Review, 4(3), 331.
  3.   Gottfredson, M. R., & Gottfredson, D. M. (1988). Decision Making in Criminal Justice. Springer.
  4.   Booker, M. (2016). The crippling effect of incarceration on wealth. Prison Policy Initiative. Retrieved from
  5.   Dumont, D. M., Brockmann, B., Dickman, S., Alexander, N., & Rich, J. D. (2012). Public health and the epidemic of incarceration. Annual Review of Public Health, 33(1), 325–339.
  6.   Massoglia, M., & Pridemore, W. A. (2015). Incarceration and health. Annual Review of Sociology, 41, 291–310.
  7.   Zaw, K., & Hamilton, D. (2016). Race, wealth and incarceration: Results from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. Race and Social Problems, 8(1), 103–115.
  8.   Chin, G. J. (2002). Race, the war on drugs, and the collateral consequences of criminal conviction. The Journal of Gender, Race & Justice, 6(2), 253-276.
  9.   Steffensmeier, D., Ulmer, J., & Kramer, J. (1998). The interaction of race, gender, and age in criminal sentencing: The punishment cost of being young, Black, and male. Criminology, 36(4), 763–797.
  10.   Wakefield, S., & Uggen, C. (2010). Incarceration and stratification. Annual Review of Sociology, 36(1), 387–406.
  11.   Gerlinger, J., Viano, S., Gardella, J. H., Fisher, B. W., Chris Curran, F., & Higgins, E. M. (2021). Exclusionary school discipline and delinquent outcomes: A meta-analysis. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 50(8), 1493–1509.
Updated February 7, 2024