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Racial Disparity in Criminal Justice Systems

Introduction

America has a very diverse culture. This is a highly cosmopolitan nation. Culture can be defined as the total behavior of a group of people, traditions, transmitted from one generation to another (Tamu.edu, 2010, par.1). The American culture, however, includes White, African American and Hispanic. The three cultures have different experiences especially in the law system in America. From criminal prosecution to convictions to time served in prison and sentences, the three races have different stories to tell. The African American tops them all in ‘rubbing shoulders with the law’. They are followed by the Hispanic and the least is the White. Statistics from the U.S. justice department reported that in 2003 there was about 10.4 percent of all African American men aged 25 to 29 were incarcerated, 2.4 percent Hispanic and 1.2 percent White. This shows a great disparity in the number of incarcerations in America with the African Americans having almost ten times that of the whites in the same country. Apart from crimes we also have racial influences in the rates of incarceration in America. This is as a result of the perception society holds and the fact that racism is in the society, discriminating against the minority groups, especially the African Americans. In this paper, we will look into issues to do with racial disparity in incarceration, criminal justice systems and, structured inequalities and, a recommendation for correcting the situation as it is as of today.

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Racial disparity in incarceration and sentencing

The racial disparity exists in justice and criminal justice when ethnic or racial proportion within the control of the system is greater than that of the population. Such disparities may be a result of factors like differing criminal activity levels, emphasis on particular communities, decision making, and legislative policies by criminal justice practitioners exercising discretion in broad terms in the system (Morton, 2008, p.1). Racial disparity in the system results from the dissimilar treatment of similarly situated people that is based on race, involving overt racial bias, and influence of other factors indirectly associated with race (Morton, 2008, p.1)

The system of prison and jail in America is defined by a deep-rooted racial disparity in the population of people incarcerated (Mauer and King, 2007, p.4). Apart from crimes we have the discretion of policymakers and practitioners in decision making relating to arrests, convictions, and imprisonment rates, regardless of the offense committed. Again, regional differences in the incarceration policies also bring about the disparity (Mauer and King, 2007, p.10)). However, the racial disparity is brought about by the fact that more African American does commit certain crimes more often than whites (Sagepub.com, 2007, p.245). Part of higher rates in incarcerating more African Americans is as a result of higher chances of being searched, arrested, and charged with a crime and, the issue of racial profiling being politically charged (Sagepub.com, 2007, p.246).

There is also evidence to support disparity in sentencing of African Americans where they receive stiffer sentences than the White people who commit the same crime(s) (Sagepub.com, 2007, p.246). Sagepub.com, 2007 continues to observe that in drug felonies whites are less likely to be convicted than African Americans in state courts. Many studies at the federal level found evidence of direct discrimination against minorities linking race and severity in sentencing (Sagepub.com, 2007, p.247).

The Hispanic people also face similar discrimination in the U. S. through the discrimination is less than that faced by the African Americans for the same crimes. A comparison of the whites and Hispanic incarceration reveals the presence of ethnic-based disparities similar to that of the African Americans and whites (Mauer and King, 2007, p.12). They too are considered to be part of the minority and as a result, they face discrimination.

From many findings, there is evidence that African Americans are the most incarcerated as a minority group in America. This is so because they are more prone to committing certain types of crime than their fellow counterparts, whites and Hispanics. This, however, is not true in all cases. There is evidence that even the white is more prone to committing other forms of crime than the African Americans and the Hispanics too. The injustice in the judicial system is what in many cases results in their large numbers in incarceration than any other race in America.

Another contributor to the case of racial disparity is the ‘race neutral’ policies. The intersection of races in policing and sentencing produces highly disproportionate rates of incarceration for offenses considered to be of low level (Mauer and King, 2007, p.17). This may see offenders in the rural areas being more harshly discriminated against for similar crimes because the majority of the population there are whites, unlike in urban areas where people of color are densely populated (Mauer and King, 2007, p.17).

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Criminal justice systems in America

America adopts a capitalist economy and so most of the values are in line with capitalism. As a result, we have the issues of race, class and gender deeply entrenched in the whole system including that one of criminal and justice. Aspects of crime and incarceration are shaped significantly by race, gender and class in America. Differences in types of crimes committed and the resulting treatment by law enforcement and the system of justice show biasness in the system (Sagepub.com, 2007, p.276). The system views African Americans, Hispanics as a minority group(s). This group is seen to threaten the existing distribution of political power and rewards derived from the economy as well as public safety. As a result, the system of justice employs coercive social control method, imprisonment, against the minority group(s) (Sagepub.com, 2007, p.277).

In many states in America the whites are favored to the other two minority groups in the same crimes. The system of justice favors them in the manner that they are sent to local jails where the time period is far much shorter than time served in state prisons, thereby suffering the severe outcomes of incarceration like family separation, and reduction of employment prospects for the ‘victims’ (Mauer and King, 2007, p.15).

Legislative decisions are a major factor that brings about disparity. Many of these laws have a disproportionate impact on the minority communities and could have been eliminated before they were enacted (Morton, 2008, p.7). Laws such as the war on drugs amongst others do not favor the minority groups at all, as they prove to be harsher on them (Morton, 2008, p.7; Mauer and King, 2007, p.16).

Overt racial bias is also present in the justice and criminal justice. The fact that racism exists in the society it is difficult to eliminate it in the system too. Racism increases bias which can be shown, amongst other things, policies of crime and justice (Morton, 2008, p.9).

Bias takes many forms in the system of justice. The interaction in all the stages from policing, the courts and in prisons communicates a lot of bias. Identifying with people who share certain similar qualities like looks, values and perception is common in the criminal justice system. The connection between the judge and the prosecutor to the defendants will contribute the outcome of the sentencing (Morton, 2008, p.9). Much of the research done in recent times reveals that belief and racist attitudes still exist (Morton, 2008, p.9). In many cases these identifications are based on race as the two will share a similar background ‘prescribed’ by culture. The outcome will be discrimination of people belonging to the minority groups in the system of criminal and justice (Mauer and King, 2007, p.17).

Criminal justice systems in America

America adopts a capitalist economy and so most of the values are in line with capitalism. As a result, we have the issues of race, class, and gender deeply entrenched in the whole system including that one of crime and justice. Aspects of crime and incarceration are shaped significantly by race, gender and class in America. Differences in types of crimes committed and the resulting treatment by law enforcement and the system of justice show biases in the system (Sagepub.com, 2007, p.276). The system views African Americans, Hispanics as a minority group(s). This group is seen to threaten the existing distribution of political power and rewards derived from the economy as well as public safety. As a result, the system of justice employs coercive social control method, imprisonment, against the minority group(s) (Sagepub.com, 2007, p.277).

In many states in America, the whites are favored over the other two minority groups in the same crimes. The system of justice favors them in the manner that they are sent to local jails where the time is far much shorter than a time served in state prisons, thereby suffering the severe outcomes of incarceration like family separation, and reduction of employment prospects for the ‘victims’ (Mauer and King, 2007, p.15).

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Legislative decisions are a major factor that brings about the disparity. Many of these laws have a disproportionate impact on the minority communities and could have been eliminated before they were enacted (Morton, 2008, p.7). Laws such as the war on drugs amongst others do not favor the minority groups at all, as they prove to be harsher on them (Morton, 2008, p.7; Mauer and King, 2007, p.16).

Overt racial bias is also present in justice and criminal justice. The fact that racism exists in society it is difficult to eliminate it in the system too. Racism increases bias which can be shown, amongst other things, policies of crime and justice (Morton, 2008, p.9).

Bias takes many forms in the system of justice. The interaction in all the stages from policing, the courts, and prisons communicate a lot of bias. Identifying with people who share certain similar qualities like looks, values and perception is common in the criminal justice system. The connection between the judge and the prosecutor to the defendants will contribute to the outcome of the sentencing (Morton, 2008, p.9). Much of the research done in recent times reveals that belief and racist attitudes still exist (Morton, 2008, p.9). In many cases these identifications are based on race as the two will share a similar background ‘prescribed’ by culture. The outcome will be discrimination of people belonging to the minority groups in the system of criminal and justice.

Structured inequality

Structured inequality in America emanates from race bias (Conyers, 2002, par.7). The whites are more favored compared to the other minority groups in America.

In America, we have whites being favored over African Americans and Hispanics. This is evident in the whole government system and also at communal levels. Resource allocation is one factor that brings about inequality in the American system. The issue of class comes to life here. The minority groups are considered to be of the low-income class. They, therefore, are likely to rely on public defense systems that are overburdened and to live in communities whose access to treatment alternative sentencing is very limited (Mauer and King, 2007, p.18). This will translate to low standards in education for the minority groups as compared to the whites. This will reduce their chances to be in a position to influence the policies which govern them. As a result, we find more of the white community being involved in policymaking and law enforcement in the U. S.

The majority in a number of police and the jury in the courts will favor the privileged in the society. Since the majority, in many cases, are white it means that the decisions will favor them more compared to the minority groups. A good example is in the case of low-level crimes that see the minority groups face harsher sentences than their white counterparts in rural areas where the majority are the whites (Mauer and King, 2007, p.17)

Another form of inequality discrimination is the use of background checks and records of crime to stigmatize minority groups. This also results in employers banning or refusing to recruit such people with criminal records. This puts the minority groups in an awkward situation so that they cannot be able to secure jobs or trade permits (National hire network, 2007, p.3). This inequality in many cases affects the minority groups as they are the most people who are associated with crime. Again, they are the minority in the systems and so it will be hard for them to convince the majority to obtain jobs and work/ trade permits.

Conclusion and Recommendation

Cultural diversity is an issue that can be viewed from many perspectives. From a negative perspective, in a highly cosmopolitan state, it is seen to be doing more harm than good and especially to the minority groups. In America culture is associated with racism and this stereotype has creped into the systems of justice. The minority groups face harsher penalties than their fellow white counterparts for the same crime. The policies and laws in the system of justice, as well as the practitioners of the law, are highly biased and subjective. Most of the laws are there to favor the white majority in the American system. The decision-makers and law enforcers also tend to lean to favor the white and for the minority groups, African Americans and the Hispanics, discrimination is the order of the day. Research has revealed that the minority groups are big in number in prisons and serve more severe sentences than their white counterparts. Africa Americans are the most affected. The system has a perception of relating the African Americans with crime and as a result, they are commonly arrested and locked away in state prisons. The low-class statuses they are associated with also puts discrimination on them and deprive them of equal opportunities in resource allocation and power in American society.

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A recommendation would be to re-look into the laws and decisions made for governing and enforcing the law in America to include equal rights and treatment, allocation of scarce resources and opportunities. This way the nation would not have mixed reactions from people of different races and it would also maintain the human capital, those associated with crime, being discriminated against by being banned from work or being denied trading permits due to their backgrounds and crime stigmatization. There should also be strict guidelines and stipulations regarding the way justice is administered regardless of race. The government should also take it upon itself to protect the minority groups as all are its citizens despite the differences in views and perceptions.

The policymakers should have an interest in the reduction of disproportionate rates in ways that coincide with the promotion of safety to the public. This may also include reviewing the sentencing options and allocation of resources to the community equally so as to reduce structural inequalities in the U. S.

Lastly, the involvement of politics as a way to inculcate discrimination in those who are of the minority groups should stop. The government/ law should have policies to mitigate such advances because politically charged motives are very strong and should only be used in positive and constructive agendas for the benefit of the whole society. The government should educate people through civic education on the dangers of ethnicity and encourage cultural exchange programs between the white majority and the other minority communities to inculcate the values of accommodation and appreciation between people of diverse cultures. This would go a long way in changing stereotype perceptions of associating other people with bad acts, class just because they come from a different community. This is so because we have African Americans and Hispanics who are successful and not criminals.

Reference List

Conyers, J. E. (2002). Racial Inequality: Emphasis on Explanations. The Journal of Black Studies, 3(2). Web.

Mauer, M., & Ryan, S. K. (2007). Uneven Justice: State Rates of Incarceration By Race and Ethnicity. Web.

Morton, K. (2008). Reducing Racial Disparity in the Criminal Justice System: A Manual for Practitioners and Policy Makers. Web.

National Hire Network. (2007). Unchaining Civil Rights: Criminalized Inequality. Web.

Sagepub.com. (2007). African American Males and the Incarceration Problem: Not Just Confined to Prison. Web.

Tamu.edu. (2010). Culture. Web.

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