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Does providing information about police shootings influence policing reform preferences? We conducted an online survey experiment in 2021 among approximately 2,600 residents of 10 large US cities. It incorporated original data we collected on police shootings of civilians. After respondents estimated the number of police shootings in their cities in 2020, we randomized subjects into three treatment groups and a control group. Treatments included some form of factual information about the police shootings in respondents’ cities (e.g., the actual total number). Afterward, respondents were asked their opinions about five policing reform proposals. Police shooting statistics did not move policing reform preferences. Support for policing reforms is primarily associated with partisanship and ideology, coupled with race. Our findings illuminate key sources of policing reform preferences among the public and reveal potential limits of information-driven, numeric-based initiatives to influence policing in the US.
Interest groups often post about their judicial advocacy on social media. We argue that they do so for two main reasons. First, providing information about the courts on social media builds the group’s credibility as a source of information with policymakers, media and the public. Second, social media provides a way to claim credit for litigation activity and outcomes, which can increase membership and aid in fundraising. Using original datasets of millions of tweets and Facebook posts by interest groups, we provide evidence that interest groups use social media for public education and to credit claim for their litigation activity.
Debates over prison privatization neglect to consider differences in legal access across private and public prisons. I argue that private prisons experience lower filing rates than public prisons, and that cases brought against publicly traded private prison companies are less likely to be dismissed and more likely to succeed than similar cases against public prisons. I find evidence consistent with these claims, a result that is not driven by other explanations of judicial decision-making. This paper has implications for skepticism of private interests in public policymaking, and encourages investigation of access to justice for inmates in public and private custody.
The degree to which female political actors influence policy is hotly debated in political science. However, relatively little research considers how women’s representation in the police influences policing outcomes. We argue that increasing women’s representation should be associated with increases in rape report rates but should not be associated with changes in rape arrest rates. We expect public perceptions of female police to affect victims’ willingness to report and cooperate with the police, but the masculine, hierarchical, and complex nature of police investigations of rape will make it difficult for those increases in reporting to translate into increases in arrests for those crimes. We leverage unique police administrative data from 1987 to 2016 and find that although women’s representation is associated with increased rape report rates, there is no relationship with rape arrest rates, highlighting an important justice gap. Our article has implications not only for the study of female representation and representative bureaucracy but also provides insights into how descriptive representation may be limited by institutional culture, norms, practices, and procedures.
The United States has witnessed privatization of a variety of government functions over the last three decades. Media and politicians often attribute the decision to privatize to ideological commitments to small government and fiscal pressure. These claims are particularly notable in the context of prison privatization, where states and the federal government have employed private companies to operate and manage private correctional facilities. I argue that state prison privatization is not a function of simple ideological or economic considerations. Rather, prison privatization has been an unintended consequence of the administrative and legal costs associated with litigation brought by prisoners. I assemble an original database of prison privatization in the United States and demonstrate that the privatization of prisons is best predicted by the legal pressure on state corrections systems, rather than the ideological orientation of a state government.
Theories concerning the adoption of punitive policies at the state level often cite two dynamics: conservative ideology and racial threat, that punitive policies are more likely in states with Republican politicians and a higher proportion of Black residents. I argue these theories lose their explanatory power in the post-Civil Rights era, and suggest Black political incorporation acts as a powerful antidote to the punitive impulses of government officials. I test my hypotheses on a dataset of state corrections spending from 1983 to 2011 and find evidence for the counterbalancing argument. States with increasing percentages of Black state legislators spend .36 fewer dollars per capita on corrections, suggesting Black political incorporation is an important mediator in the relationship between racial threat and corrections budgets. This paper has implications for the application of the social control theory as descriptive representation grows, but also for the study of the effect of minority politicians on budgets and policy more broadly. The adoption of policies deleterious to certain communities can be mitigated by the presence of representatives who legislate on behalf of those communities.
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