Uneven Statistics Involving the Criminal Justice System:
The role of race in the criminal justice system is not given the serious attention it deserves. The criminal justice system is a system of practices and institutions of governments directed at upholding social control, deterring and mitigating crime, and sanctioning those who violate laws with criminal penalties and rehabilitation efforts. Unfortunately, the abundance of unethical activities controlling this system has created a disproportionate outcome, affecting the view of African-Americans in society. As of 2003, the U.S. Department of Justice noted that about ten percent of African-American men were incarcerated as compared to about two percent of Hispanic men and one percent of White men. A growing number of Blacks view the criminal justice system as White's primary means to control and ultimately destroy the Black community (Tonry, 1995).
According to Wilson (1992), the common perceptions concerning crime are apparently based upon nonfactual, stereotypical, and racist presumptions about who commits crimes and who does not. Most people see criminals only as those persons arrested by police, which turns out to be African-Americans the majority of the time. Ultimately,
The trouble with the official crime picture is that it has the effect of grossly distorting the average citizen's image of what crime is all about. It minimizes and deflects attention from one kind of crime (the common kind that one's neighbors commit) and exaggerates and spotlights another, less common, kind (the code name is “crime-in-the-street” which is presumably committed by “criminals”) (Wilson, 1992).
Poor people are convicted of crime more often, although there is no substantial relationship between social class and the commission of crimes. However, there is a direct relationship between class and conviction of crime. “The fact that half of more of the fifty percent of all prisoners in jails and penitentiaries are blacks says nothing at all about the criminality of black people, stated Highsmith (1996).”
At the end of the year in 2004, XXXVI states and the federal prison system held MMMCCCXIV prisoners under sentence of death. This was LVIII fewer than held at the end of the previous year. Of all of these offenders under the sentence of death, LVI percent were White, XXXXII percent were Black, and two percent were of other races (Capital Punishment Statistics, 2010).
Federal law prohibits firearm possession by or transferred to prohibited persons including those who are under indictment for or convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for more than one year. From March 1, 1994 to November 29, 1998, an estimated 12,740,000 applications for handgun purchases resulted in 312,000 rejections through background checks. In 2008, about ten million applications for firearm transfers or permits were subject to background checks under the Brady Act and similar state laws. In conjunction with these laws, about 1,778,000 applications were rejected. Among state checking agencies in 2008, XXXXVI percent of all rejections for firearm transfers were due to a felony conviction. XXXXVIII percent of all applications were denied due to reasons other than felony convictions (Capital Punishment Statistics, 2010).
Mentor (2010) states that two-thirds of students who cannot read proficiently by the end of the fourth grade will end up in jail or on welfare. According to literacy statistics and juvenile courts, LXXXV percent of all juveniles who interface with the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate and more than LX percent of all prison inmates are functionally illiterate. The Department of Justice states, “The link between academic failure and delinquency, violence, and crime is welded to reading failure.”
There are currently more black men serving prison sentences than are enrolled in colleges. The U.S. government predicts one out of every XI American men will be incarcerated at some point in his lifetime- one in four if the male is Black. Although the U.S. comprises less than five percent of the world's population, it incarcerates over XXV percent of the world's prisoners.
The fact that police departments use profiles which they claim help to reduce drug activity, also contributes to the institutionalization of young Black men. The profiles purport to describe common characteristics of drug couriers by basically encouraging officers to stop, at random and with no reasonable suspicion, people of color and engage in a search of both the vehicle and passenger (Highsmith, 1996). Police seem to be tied up with the pressures of meeting their quotas, thereby pursuing the easier prey, which normally comprises small-time drug dealers and gang members. Well-financed, professional White criminals tend to be ignored because their charges require long-term investigations, even though they potentially yield substantially more remunerative arrests.
Police officers tend to make as many arrests as possible to advance their careers. The more arrests that are made, the more it seems that police officers are actually being effective. As a result, those offenders with the fewest resources are targeted because police officers have the full force of the state behind them. According to Highsmith (1996), the main focus for law enforcers is on minority consumers because they are easier and cheaper to arrest in volume than the well-armed and well-financed white dealers and manufacturers.
The rising levels of black incarceration did not just happen; they were the foreseeable effects of deliberate policies spearheaded by the Reagan and Bush administrations and implemented in many states. Anyone with knowledge of drug-trafficking patterns and of police arrest policies and incentives could have foreseen that the enemy troops in the War on Drugs would consist largely of young, inner-city minority males. Blacks in particular are arrested and imprisoned for drug crimes in numbers far out of line with their proportions of the general population, of drug users, and of drug traffickers (Tonry, 1995).
The Task Force on Minority Fairness compiled data concerning the role of race in the criminal justice system. It concluded that LXXVII percent of minority attorneys think sheriffs and court employees are disrespectful to minorities; defendants are sometimes stereotyped; and the courts frequented by minorities are more crowded and have fewer resources, leading to the perception that they are “poor people's courts.” Much of the real or perceived bias is due more to socioeconomic factors than racism.
At the root of the possible consequences of economic inequality and crime is the conflict perspective, which perceives the dominant, powerful (white) groups in society as attempting to control culturally dissimilar groups (in this case, nonwhites) who are seen by the dominant group as a threat to the political and social order benefiting them. Domination of nonwhites is achieved through agents of social control such as police… Another means of social control takes place in the isolation of worrisome groups into inner-city ghettos and barrios; racial segregation has the additional benefit of reducing the costs of crime control (Mann, 1993).
The African-American and other minority populations have been continuously receiving more freedoms since the abolition of slavery. We have finally reached the point of having a president of African-American decent. Some whites must realize that all change is not bad and stop fearing it. There are obviously certain privileges and positions that are held by the majority of whites, which they are using to keep minorities behind in their quest to keep control of society. As obvious as it is that illegal acts are being performed, no one is stepping in to correct this unbalanced system.
Texas and California are home to XXII percent of America's youth. Over the last decade, Texas increased the number of incarcerated youths by XXXXVIII percent, through harsh sentencing practices that targeted non-violent, property and drug offenders (Males, Stahlkopf, and Macallair, 2007). In contrast, California drastically reduced the total number of incarcerated youths by LXXV percent, by imprisoning only the most violent offenders (Males, Stahlkopf, and Macallair, 2007). However, the trends in the percentages of incarcerated offenders, clearly matches results from my previous research. There was a negative XXI percent change, from about XVI percent in 1995 to XIII percent in 2005, in the number of incarcerated youths in California. As for Texas, there was a positive XXII percent change, from XVIII percent in 1995 to XXII in 2005. Latinos totaled an eight percent increase in California, from XXXXVII to LI percent in 1995 and 2005, respectively. There was a five percent increase in Texas, from XXXXII to XXXXIV percent, during the same time period. It is no longer shocking that minorities engross the highest number of incarcerated individuals. There was a XIII percent increase in California, from XXVII percent in 1995 to XXXI percent in 2005. In Texas, the amount of incarcerated juveniles decreased by XIII percent, from XXXIX to XXXIV percent in 1995 to 2005, respectively.
For as long as there has been a criminal justice system, minorities have been underrepresented on the basis of the White superiority conflict. There are more African-Americans holding positions as judges and law officials, but not enough to say that there has been a significant change over the last several decades. The task of gaining theses positions by minorities has been known to be made a lot more difficult than for Whites pursuing the same destination. Not only are Americans facing this structural injustice, but so are other countries. As reported in the United Kingdom, approximately two decades ago, minorities held less than five percent of all judiciary duties comprising their legal system. Minority groups with different objectives are being developed in all areas of society, to give voices to those who would otherwise go unheard.
Wilson (1992) suggests that “There is a pervasive feeling among many White Americans that their world would be much more secure if all young Black males were imprisoned, solitarily confined to their ghettos, or kept under constant surveillance… Ultimately, criminality of the Black male…resides in any act or attitude on the part of Black males which appears to White Americans to defy White American authority, control or dominance.”
As long as people are allowed opinions, there will be contradictions to these opinions. The best issue to focus on is facts. One fact that stands is that approximately seven years ago, the U.S. Justice Department stated that ten percent of all African American men between the ages of XXV to XXIX were incarcerated as opposed to two percent of Hispanic men and one percent of White men, in the same age group. People have developed their own opinions of what is going on here, but what is clearly evident is prejudices and structural inequality. It has been proved that minorities receive more prison time for similar offenses committed by Whites. The obvious misrepresentation of law enforcing positions also contributes to minorities being seen as criminals, when it is obviously not the case. The most effective solution is for individuals to vote for politicians who share their beliefs and put more faith in the society that our new president is trying to mold.
Highsmith, G. (1996). Black skin, white justice: Race matters in the criminal justice system. Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute. Retrieved from http://www.yale.edu/ynhti/curriculum/units/1996/1/96.01.10.x.html
Males, M., Stahlkopf, C., & Macallair, D. (June 2007). Crime rates and youth incarceration in Texas and California Compared: Public safety or public waste? Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice. Retrieved from http://www.cjcj.org
Mann, C.R. (1993). Unequal justice. Indianapolis; Indiana University Press. p.85.
Mentor, K.W. (2010, January 30). Capital Punishment Statistics. Prison Education and Employment. Office of Justice Programs. National Institute of Justice. Washington, D.C. Retrieved from http://www.writeaprisoner.com/prisoner-statistics.aspx
Tonry, M. (1995). Malign Neglect: Race, crime and punishment in America. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 4; p.38-39.
Wilson, A. (1992). Black on black violence. Africa World Info Systems. New Jersey. p.9; p.20.