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The Criminal Justice Experience of African American Cocaine Users in Arkansas

  • Author(s): Zaller, N
  • Cheney, AM
  • Curran, GM
  • Booth, BM
  • Borders, TF
  • et al.
Abstract

African Americans are incarcerated at rates much higher than other racial and ethnic groups in the United States.We sought to qualitatively explore the relationships between ongoing involvement in the criminal justice system and continued drug use in a population of urban and rural African American cocaine users in a southern state.Semi-structured qualitative interviews were conducted among African American cocaine users in Arkansas between 2010 and 2012. Participants resided in both rural (two counties located in the eastern Arkansas Mississippi delta region) and urban (the county including the capital city of Little Rock) areas.Numerous important themes emerged from participants' narratives, including chronic involvement with the criminal justice system (being a "career criminal"), continued access to drugs while incarcerated, relapse, and reincarceration and lack of access to effective drug treatment. Conclusion/Importance: The themes which emerged from our data speak to the collective experience that many substance using populations in the United States face in dealing with the criminal justice system. Our findings highlight the need to better, more holistic ways of engaging African American substance users in community based substance use treatment and supportive services.

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