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May 13, 2015

Poll: Most blacks in N.J. lack confidence in criminal justice system

Poll Criminal Justice
05132015_ProtestNJ_AP Mel Evans/AP

A group of people stand in front of the Cumberland County Courthouse as they protest a fatal police shooting in southern New Jersey Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015, in Bridgeton, N.J.

A recent poll reveals a racial divide among New Jersey residents in regard to their confidence in the criminal justice system.

Blacks are significantly less trusting than whites, a Fairleigh Dickinson PublicMind Poll found.

While three quarters of whites (75 percent) trust police to treat everyone equally, only 42 percent of black respondents agree. 

“With racial tensions running high in the wake of a string of police shootings and other brutality against black suspects, these numbers should give public officials pause,” Krista Jenkins, professor of political science and director of PublicMind, said in a statement. 

A chasm separates whites from blacks on the other two issues as well: prosecutorial fairness and the availability of legal assistance, regardless of income. Forty-five percent of blacks trust prosecutors, with only ten percent who say they have “a lot” of trust, while 77 percent of whites express trust, with over a third (38%) who say they have “a lot” of trust. Over half of whites (54%) trust the system to provide effective legal representation, with more than a full fifth (21%) expressing the most trust. Among blacks, trust in legal help plummets. Only seven percent say they have “a lot” of trust with another quarter who describe their level as “some.”

“Black residents in New Jersey look upon the criminal justice system with suspicion rather than trust," Jenkins added. "The racial divide in New Jersey is about on par with what’s been observed across the country.”

Overall, most residents (66 percent) trust the police to treat all suspects equally, regardless of race, the study found. 

Read the full poll report here.