Race, Severe Mental Illness, and Crime: An Intersectional Look Into Stigma and Policy Implications

Elena Therese Vaudreuil, University of Texas at El Paso


Criminal behavior has been a long-discussed topic in the United States and often is tied to characteristics such as race and mental illness. The presumed connection between criminal behavior and being a member of a racial minority group or having a mental illness have been researched for years, however few researchers have sought to take an intersectional approach to investigate the unique experiences of people belonging to both groups in the criminal legal system. Using the lenses of attribution and intersectionality theories, the proposed studies sought to understand the effect of race that influences policy support of justice-involved people with mental illness using participants gathered from Amazon’s CloudResearch platform. The study found that participants were significantly more likely to support rehabilitative correctional policies as compared to punitive policies, no matter the vignette information they were shown. However, attitudes about these groups of people and the police drove money allocation patterns. Mutability of justice-involved people, attitudes towards mental illness and support of the Defund the Police movement were some of the most notable. Though, these patters were not always in the direction expected; individuals who were not supportive of the Defund the Police movement, but saw the Black, violent vignette were much more likely to allocate money to mental health services as compared to correctional facilities or the police. The results suggests that there may be an element of social desirability in the participants, or it may be a demonstration of people overcorrecting for historical biases against Black men. The results have implications for both policymakers and in research, including the need for further exploration into concern for minority groups in the context of the criminal justice system, and the identification of areas that would benefit from educational interventions to reduce the discrepancies that are currently seen in the criminal justice system and offer more fair and just treatment.

Subject Area

Psychology|Criminology|Social psychology|Mental health

Recommended Citation

Vaudreuil, Elena Therese, "Race, Severe Mental Illness, and Crime: An Intersectional Look Into Stigma and Policy Implications" (2024). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI31295877.