Racial Inequalities In The Criminal Justice System

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There is significant evidence supporting racial inequalities dealing with incarceration and the mass effects of discrimination against minority communities. There is also evidence supporting negative effects to these communities, contributing more greatly into incarceration, unemployment, and educational systems.

Things that will be looked at are as follows. How discrimination tie into incarceration rates. Why minorities are more likely to receive longer and harsher sentencing and punishments than non-minorities. How false accusations tie into discrimination of minorities. How the criminal justice system is stacked against minorities. Lastly, how are communities both directly and indirectly effected by the results of incarcerations.According to the United States Sentencing Commission, it is said that “As long as the individuals in each group are treated fairly, average group differences simply reflect differences in the characteristics of the individuals who comprise each group.” (USSC, 2004) From this I see it to be if the individuals being charged are receiving the same sentencing that similar others of that group or race are, that it is fair on that standard, however this has no correlation between different groups or races. This doesn’t justify difference between races receiving similar sentencing for the same charges. Continuing this, the USSC looks at the differences between the “three major racial and ethnic groups from 1984 to 2001” (USSC, 2004) They then states that “While the majority of federal offenders were White, minorities dominate the federal criminal docket” (USSC, 2004) There are more Caucasian federal offenders, but minorities are more likely to receive sentencing, more likely to receive harsher sentencing.

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USSC leads into ‘Fair Differentiation’ in which it said, ‘Discrimination’ being “Offenders receive different treatment based on their race, ethnicity, gender and other forbidden factors” as well as ‘Unsupportable adverse impact’ being “Offenders receive different treatment based on sentencing rules that are not clearly needed to achieve the purposes of sentencing” (USSC, 2004) That being said, minority groups are more likely to receive bias sentencing (more likely to be convicted) compared to that of non-minority groups. There are data misinterpretations due to mandatory minimum statutes. According to USSCs research, “conviction under a mandatory minimum statute has no effect in cases above minimum penalty but forces judges to impose higher penalties required” (USSC, 2004) Due to minimum sentencing, a judge can only go so low when sentencing individuals. Many of these cases are against minorities. “mandatory minimum penalties disproportionately apply to minority offenders” (USSC, 2004) This effectively stacking the odds against minorities when sentencing.

Based on some statistics that USSC have displayed, dealing with drug charges, “The odds of a black offender being sentenced to imprisonment are about 20 percent higher than that of a White offender, and the odds of a Hispanic offender are about 40 percent higher” (USSC, 2004) This could directly be related to the previous paragraph where minimum penalties are applied to offenders. In similar correlations, “Findings indicate that all types of Hispanic [and Black] offenders are placed above the minimum required sentence more frequently than similar White offenders or receive lesser reductions.” (USSC, 2004) Overall minorities receive longer sentencing above that of minimum more often than that of non-minorities. In the sentencing of drug trafficking, “Whites receive reductions three percent larger than blacks and five percent larger than Hispanics” (USSC, 2004) This is one of many indications that prove there is bias racial sentencing.

In specific cases dealing with certain contraband, drug trafficking for instance, there is a great difference in sentencing. That being said, “the current gap is 92.1 months for blacks compared to the 57.9 months for whites with a reduction of 17.8 months” (USSC, 2004) There is a 34.2 month difference between black and white offenders based on the same crimes. According to The Sentencing Project, “African Americans are more likely than white Americans to be arrested; more likely to be convicted; and more likely to experience lengthy prison sentences,” in which they lead into “African-American adults are 5.9 times as likely to be incarcerated and Hispanics 3.1 times as likely than whites” (The Sentencing Project, 2018) That being said, the differences dealing with incarceration between the different races is disproportional.

It is suspected that it’s more than just racial discrimination factors into these longer sentencings. The Sentencing Project says that “there are two distinct criminal justice systems, that of the rich and that of the poor and people of color.” (The Sentencing Project, 2018) Looking at the differences between annual incomes of races, and the prison population, we can infer that lower income races directly relate to incarceration. “[The average income for white individuals is that of 1.7 times more than that of African Americans, and 1.22 that of Hispanics.]” (RaceIncomeMedian), however, “[those of African American decent make up around 62% of the prison population, followed by Hispanics at 27% and whites at just around 11%]” (DOJ, 2011) While minorities tend to make less income, they also make up the majority of the prison population. It’s also put that “the prison population is overwhelmingly poor and disproportionately black” (The Sentencing Project, 2018)

As of 2016, “The United States spends more than $80 billion annually on corrections” (DOE, 2016) how does this fair with the education system? “State and Local spending on prisons and jails triple that of funding for public education” (DOE, 2016) There is more funding tied up with individuals incarcerated than is being used to fund public education. Looking at average grades, it also shows that ‘less educated’ individuals tend to be those of minority groups. It may be a stretch, however the correlation between minorities, public education, and incarceration could be directly related with each other. Due to lower income families tending to be minority, which also tend to make up the majority of the prison population, who also tend to have overall lower GPAs, we can see that the ‘system’ is clearly targeting a group of people.

Public education funding gets cut, which leads to individuals not learning the material as they should or have teachers that don’t care to help those who need it due to lack of funding. These teachers don’t care because they aren’t paid enough for that job, which tends to leave individuals overall going down paths which lead to incarceration. Because these individuals are incarcerated, more state and local funding is required to keep these individuals in prison. Cycle continues, which is why the “United States criminal justice system is the largest in the world,” as well as “The U.S. is the world leader in its rate of incarceration” (The Sentencing Project, 2018)

According to the Sentencing Project, “[the linkage between race and crime is urban poverty, which is far more common for African Americans that for other racial groups]” (The Sentencing Project, 2018) This links back to African Americans making less income than that of other races, as well as generally living is less than suitable conditions such as location and access to more or better public sectors. Because African Americans are more likely subjected to urban poverty, the criminal justice system tends to fail these individuals due to biases such as “overlooking communities of color being disproportionately victims of crime,” (The Sentencing Project, 2018) leaving Americans to overestimate the crimes and their rates towards these individuals.

“The rise of mass incarceration begins with disproportionate levels of police contact with African Americans” (The Sentencing Project, 2018) this is called racial profiling, however with racial profiling being illegal, Louis Dekmar, who is the president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, cannot state that police are stopping people of color based on profiling. In his words, according to the Sentencing Project, “Crime is often significantly higher in minority neighborhoods than elsewhere. And that is where we allocate our resources” (The Sentencing Project, 2018) While the police resources are being allocated in neighborhoods of minorities, these other neighborhoods that aren’t being monitored, or not being monitored as often are basically getting free passes to conduct criminal activities (such as drug trafficking and consumptions). In this aspect, these neighborhoods of minorities are being more closely looked at because of racial discrimination and racial profiling.

How high does racial discrimination and racial profiling go? Continuing with previous statements, there are “High officials in New York City that have ‘turned blind eyes to the evidence of stops based on racial discrimination’” (The Sentencing Project, 2018) ACLU according to the Sentencing Project have “found that blacks were 3.7 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites in 2010, even though the rate of usage was comparable” (The Sentencing Project, 2018) White people aren’t being stopped as much because officers tend to be looking for minorities because that’s where the resources are needed used for. Yet we have two difference groups of races, if we were to go by law, both of these individuals should have been arrested and tried in very similar ways (because marijuana is not legalized and is illegal).

“Police are more likely to stop black and Hispanic drivers for discretionary reasons over that of white drivers… Once pulled over, black and Hispanic drivers were three times as likely as whites to be searched (that being 6% and 7%)” (The Sentencing Project, 2018) Which is quite funny because while officers were stopping these drivers, “police officers generally had a lower ‘contraband hit rate’ when they searched black drivers than that of white drives” (The Sentencing Project, 2018) So even though people of color were being searched more, there were more white drivers that had contraband.

“African Americans were incarcerated in local jails at a rate 3.5 times that of non-Hispanic whites” (The Sentencing Project, 2018) People of color are jailed more often than white people. The Sentencing Project also states that “people were being detained prior to trial, policies and decisions influencing pretrial detention play a key role in driving the disparity in the jail population and beyond” (The Sentencing Project, 2018) People of color were being detained before being on trial. This could greatly affect the results in which the outcome from the trial would end. “People who are detained awaiting trial are also more likely to accept less favorable plea deals, being sentenced to prison, and receiving longer sentences” (The Sentencing Project, 2018) These people are being detained, and because they are being detained, the individuals are somewhat suckered into accepting plea deals that are unfavorable to these individuals. Usually when someone is taking a plea deal, it is supposed to help the court systems, as well as help over population in prisons and allows the individuals to receive less harsh sentences but ends up receive harsher sentencing.

Another problem with these pretrial deals is that the individuals “require money bond, an especially high hurdle for low-income defendants” (The Sentencing Project, 2018) The problem with this is that usually the individuals who are arrested come from low-income areas. Places that are generally in poverty since that is where most of the resources are allocated, and these individuals usually cannot afford to pay these bonds. They end up being detained because they cannot pay their bonds which is “often assessed to be higher safety and flight risks because they have a higher chance to experience socioeconomic disadvantage and to have criminal records” (The Sentencing Project, 2018) All of a sudden, people of color are being judged socially because they cannot afford to pay bonds, and because they were picked up, they might end up having a criminal record (unless the charges get cleared) which can be backed up in court. This would prevent individuals from getting jobs, which generally leads to lower income problems.

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Racial Inequalities In The Criminal Justice System. (2022, Jun 16). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 23, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/racial-inequalities-in-the-criminal-justice-system/
“Racial Inequalities In The Criminal Justice System.” Edubirdie, 16 Jun. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/racial-inequalities-in-the-criminal-justice-system/
Racial Inequalities In The Criminal Justice System. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/racial-inequalities-in-the-criminal-justice-system/> [Accessed 23 Jun. 2024].
Racial Inequalities In The Criminal Justice System [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Jun 16 [cited 2024 Jun 23]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/racial-inequalities-in-the-criminal-justice-system/

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