Abstract: A Comparison of Two Forms of Community Engagement to Engage Black People Exposed to the Criminal Legal System in New York City (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

All in-person and virtual presentations are in Mountain Standard Time Zone (MST).

SSWR 2023 Poster Gallery: as a registered in-person and virtual attendee, you have access to the virtual Poster Gallery which includes only the posters that elected to present virtually. The rest of the posters are presented in-person in the Poster/Exhibit Hall located in Phoenix A/B, 3rd floor. The access to the Poster Gallery will be available via the virtual conference platform the week of January 9. You will receive an email with instructions how to access the virtual conference platform.

A Comparison of Two Forms of Community Engagement to Engage Black People Exposed to the Criminal Legal System in New York City

Sunday, January 15, 2023
Encanto A, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Tawandra Rowell-Cunsolo, Assistant Professor, University of Wisconsin-Madison, WI
Courtney Blanford, MSW, Doctoral Student, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI
Carson Borbely, BA, Research Assistant, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI
Background and Purpose. Black people are vastly overrepresented among the 2.3 million individuals incarcerated in the U.S. Although they are nearly 5 times more likely than whites to become engaged with the criminal legal system, the impact of legal system engagement on Black individuals is understudied. This presentation will discuss two different approaches to examine the health impacts of legal system involvement among Black people in New York City (NYC). This presentation will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of using a Community Advisory Board (CAB) guided or a Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR) approach to document associations between health and legal system involvement among Black NYC residents, a city with disproportionately high rates of police surveillance and incarceration of Black residents.

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.