Methods. Two research studies were conducted to examine legal system engagement in New York City. The first study used a CAB-guided approach to examine HIV risk-related behaviors among formerly incarcerated individuals in NYC. The second study applied CBPR principles to examine exposure to the legal system among Central Brooklyn residents. Both studies examined health outcomes associated with legal system involvement. The Patient Health Questionnaire was used to examine depressive symptoms. The CBPR-based study covered a smaller area geographical area of NYC which enabled us to complete data collection within four days compared to nearly 20 months using the CAB-guided approach.
Results. A total of 270 surveys were collected between the CAB-guided and CBPR-based studies. The CAB-guided study consisted of nearly 90% men, while the CBPR-based study consisted of only 41% men. In both the CAB-guided and CBPR-based study samples, majority of respondents identified as heterosexual (79% and 69%, respectively). Both approaches identified substantial engagement with the legal system among participants. On average, the CAB-guided study participants had been incarcerated at least 11 times since adulthood, and a substantial proportion of Central Brooklyn residents reported a history of incarceration (14.09%) and/or exposure to familial incarceration (30.2%). Depressive symptoms were elevated among participants in both samples. While the advantages of the CAB-guided approach included greater autonomy in the data collection process for the researcher, the CBPR approach promoted more sustained community engagement in data collection activities.
Conclusions and Implications. A variety of approaches and research methodologies are useful for identifying health impacts or associations between exposure to the legal system and health outcomes. Identifying research strategies that are mutually beneficial and amplify the voices of marginalized communities could help highlight harms associated with legal system involvement.