Beliefs about an Offender’s Capacity to Be Rehabilitated: Black Offenders Are Seen as More Capable of Change

Document Type


Publication Date



One goal of incarceration is offender rehabilitation. We examined whether characteristics of an offender affect beliefs about rehabilitation capacity. In three studies using large samples, we investigated inferences about criminal offenders who were described as juveniles or adults (15 or 30 years old). Participants read about or were shown a picture of a White or Black actor. They judged the offender’s maturation, intentionality, and long-term goals, and indicated their rehabilitation capacity. Black offenders, regardless of age, were seen as more capable of rehabilitation, seen as possessing less intentionality, and having more positive long-term goals than White offenders. Discussion focuses on potential explanations for the data including system justification and attitudinal influence.

This document is currently not available here.