Date Thesis Awarded


Access Type

Honors Thesis -- Access Restricted On-Campus Only

Degree Name

Bachelors of Science (BS)




Dr. Cheryl Dickter

Committee Members

Dr. Pamela Hunt

Dr. Lizabeth Allison


Even to this day, members of the Black population involved in drug use are being subjected to high rates of imprisonment and are receiving a lower quality of health care in comparison to White drug users. This study proposes that the disparities in how society treats Black drug users are in part due to the way people’s perception of drug users differs based on the race of the target. In addition, this study sought to examine how these perceptions are predicted by implicit and explicit racial prejudice. To test these research questions, college students (n = 99) were randomly assigned to view an electronic court case record of a White or Black drug user or a drug user of an unspecified race, and asked to make judgments about them; explicit and implicit bias towards Blacks was measured. Results revealed that the higher the levels of explicit prejudice towards Black drug users and drug users of an unspecified race, the more they are associated with negative stereotypical traits and the more people predict them to be able to commit more serious crimes in the future, compared to White drug users. We also found that people perceived that Black drug users would be less successful in the future compared to drug users of an unspecified race if provided with health treatment. Gaining a better understanding of the underlying reasons behind racial disparities in the criminal justice system is important to instigate reforms to the system and to the quality of health care offered to drug users of different races.

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