Understanding the Post-Charging Decision-Making Processes for Young Black Men Charged as Adults in New York City: A Phenomenological Study

Hans Menos, Fordham University


After a young person is arrested and charged, the criminal justice system makes room for the accused to make certain decisions regarding how their criminal court case will proceed. These decisions include whether or not to plead guilty, to insist on a trial or to engage in the plea bargaining process. Simultaneously, in municipalities around the country, including New York City, young people are tried as adults and any other adult would be are empowered by the law and actors within the justice system to make these decisions. The decisions made in this context have severe consequences for individuals, families, and communities. In the context of plea bargaining, the outcomes are typically recorded as guilty pleas, where a person voluntarily accepts responsibility and punishment for a crime. This qualitative research begins to identify that this understanding of decision making and voluntary acceptance is far more complicated and involves many considerations which are not based on legal issues such as strength of evidence and risk. Rather, as this study illustrates the decision making is marred by the illegitimacy of the system, pressures from family and coercion from the systems players. The findings of this study highlight that legal issues such as guilt or innocence are included amongst the many other extra-legal issues considered by young men tried as adults. The findings also suggest that many elements contained within the decision making which is thrust upon young men, coerces them into consequential decisions. These findings compel policy makers to reconsider policy and practice by social workers, prosecutors, judges and public defenders. Additionally, they add a complex layer to the national conversation on re-imaging public safety and reconsidering the nation’s relationship with police and punitive responses to social problems.

Subject Area

Social work|Criminology|Law|African American Studies

Recommended Citation

Menos, Hans, "Understanding the Post-Charging Decision-Making Processes for Young Black Men Charged as Adults in New York City: A Phenomenological Study" (2021). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI28411981.