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Representation of Racism within the Criminal Justice System in Just Mercy: Analytical Essay

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The criminal justice system is an important component within the government to enforce the laws, the courts and the corrections to succeed in achieving social order. Without the justice system, problems regarding the law can heighten. Without the system, citizens will be living in a lawless chaos. Despite the obvious need for the justice system, there has been occasions where it has failed to accomplish its main goal. I say this not because they don’t get the job done, it is because of the way they perceive themselves to the public and some of their actions. Their actions have caused an uproar regarding whether or not their practices are just. I believe that the criminal justice system is unjust because of the racial discrimination, their inability to address women in need of help and the mistreatment of the mentally ill.

Racism within the criminal justice system is evident. Racism has always been a huge problem in America. Racial discrimination has literally been embedded into our history, something we sadly can’t erase. Though racism is a negative connotation, we are still able to learn from it and grow from our mistakes. Yet, even in the newer generation, racism still exists and is unfortunately ingrained in our justice system. In the novel, “Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson, he writes, “ Fear and anger can make us vindictive and abusive, unjust and unfair until we all suffer from the absence of mercy and we condemn ourselves as much as we victimize others.” (Stevenson 18). The stereotypes among all races have the ability to ignite anger and fear within anyone. People’s inability to see the moral and ethical sides of the situation leads them to make irrational decisions. This greatly applies to the justice system. This quote gives us the reason for why we should empathize and why we should have mercy on others. Yet, we continue to stray further away from the right ways. This causes our justice system to be corrupt, where the people are unable to trust the ones we should. We mistreat one another for any reason, whether it be the way we are, our way of life, or the color of our skin. We all deserve justice and mercy. Especially when one is wrongly accused of a crime or hasn’t even done the crime deserve the punishment given. Other than wrongly accusing people, there have been instances where people of different races in for the same crime yet, one of them receives a longer sentence. In William Quigley’s “Racism: the crime in criminal justice”, he states “The U.S. Sentencing Commission reported in March of 2010 that in the federal system African-American offenders receive sentences that are 10% to 23% longer than white offenders for the same crimes.” This is a perfect example of getting their job done, but the way they execute their practices is questionable. I can understand that there are many factors to why someone’s sentence can lengthen, such as their background, behaviors etc. but, giving an inmate a longer sentence than another when they both have done the same crime is unfair. The question is, why? Why should the sentencing differ when they both commit the same exact crime? How is that just? It’s not. The justice system is infamous for its ill-treatment against people of color. Inaddition to being racially bias, the justice system is unable to address serious matters relating to women victim sexual assault.

There are moments where the justice system fails to explore the crimes against women. Discrimination and violence against women is an issue that we’ve all come to know and acknowledge. Throughout history, women have been seen as the inferior and this type of mindset has lead women to be treated quite poorly. Despite societies, never-ending quest for gender equality, the misdemeanors concerning women is still apparent today, especially towards the women who are locked up. In the book, “Just Mercy”, Stevenson states, “Women at Tutwiler were being raped by prison guards. Women were being sexually harassed, exploited, abused and assaulted by male officers in countless ways. The male warden allowed the male guards entry into the showers during prison counts.” (Stevenson 238) Yes, these women may or may have not done their crimes and are in prison to serve as a punishment, but they are undeserving of this kind of treatment. It is bad enough that they are imprisoned but, now they are faced with more challenges. As a guard, your job is to enforce the rules within the prison, not to take advantage of the inmates for your own twisted desire. Furthermore, the male warden nonchalantly allowing the officers to just do what they want is unethical. Other than the wrongdoing against the women locked up, they’re also known for their inaccurate service to the women outside the cells.

Society’s discussion regarding rape has been an ongoing thing and we all are fully aware of the damages it has on a victim. In spite of the knowledge opposed to rape, the justice system has taken this issue too lightly. As reported by Vicki Vonpi in “Young women's experiences with reporting sexual assault to police”, she states, “According to the young women, the most commonly cited reason given by police for not charging was that there was not enough evidence to establish a sexual assault had occurred. From the survivors' understanding, either no reason or other reasons were given: she was to blame for letting the perpetrators in her house; the police had more important matters with which to deal; the perpetrator was 12 years old and therefore too young to charge.” Now, just because the police decided not to charge the perpetrator for the crime, it does not mean the assault didn’t occur. The reason why it wasn’t taken further into consideration was because of the lack of evidence the police were able to compile. In this quote, it is apparent that the police don’t treat each case the same. The women’s assault has to hit a certain standard to have her case taken seriously, which seems very cruel. Though there are some cases in which a woman, for whatever reason, falsely accuses a man for raping her doesn't change the fact that each case should be held at the same standard. Having the police choose which case is much more valuable has survivors thinking that their hardships and what they just went through mean nothing. From blaming the victim for the unfortunate circumstance to the police letting it slip from their mind because there was something much more “important”, the police has continued to let it be known to the world their inability to address the real problem.

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This makes the justice seem corrupt and unable to uphold their purpose, to serve their citizens who need justice. The exploitation in relation to the mentally ill is just as bad as the violation towards women.

The mentally ill are mistreated in the justice system. The mentally ill are being treated as though they are up to the same standards as people who are not. We acknowledge the fact that people that are mentally ill are in need of special treatment due to their conditions. Yet, the justice systems ignore these conditions and continue to treat the mentally ill incorrectly. According to Stevenson, “I argued to the judge that not taking Avery’s mental health issues into consideration at trial was as cruel as saying to someone who has lost his legs, “You must climb these stairs with no assistance, and if you don’t your just lazy.” Or to say to someone who was blind, “You should get across this busy interstate highway, unaided, or you’re just cowardly.” (Stevenson 199) Over the years, society has developed a stigma against people with mental illness. The stigma associated with mental illness can be divided into two categories. The one relating to Avery would be a social stigma, where others have prejudiced attitudes against people with mental illnesses. Others are against people with such illnesses because they don’t understand it and believe that it isn’t as important. They are unaware of what they prejudice acts and dehumanizing actions can do to an individual with these types of complications. Pushing aside their needs because they believed that it isn't as serious as a physical illness. In addition to the serious stigma and misunderstanding towards the mentally ill, there are other cases where people in similar circumstances are treated wrongly. In C. Joseph Boatwright’s Solving the Problem of Criminalizing the Mentally Ill: the Miami Model, he explains, “On any given day there are 360,000 people with severe mental illnesses in jails and prisons throughout the country and over 760,000 people with severe mental illnesses are on community control or probation.

(18) People with mental illnesses are on probation or parole two to four times longer than that of the general population on community control or probation.” Going back to the lighting one's sentencing, people who are in need of trained professionals should not be holed up on prisons. I understand that to most, people who have such conditions can be seen as dangerous but with the right medical attention, these problems can be easily avoided. But, keeping them locked up longer than needed and not giving them the correct medications and treat men can cause consequences for the mental ills. They need to be let go and be put into care with people who are able to help them. The justice system needs to be more considerate on how they treat their inmates, yes these are people who have done unethical things, but they should be at least treated as humans. Due to their acts towards people of the mentally ill, the justice system in unjust.

Keeping them there for longer can cause more damage than good. Though we have grown a fair amount in society, we tend to let our judgments shadow over our logical thinking. We’ve been taught not to judge others, yet at times we still fail to realize that people are different. Despite those differences, it doesn’t give us the right to have someone else feel inferior. The unjust acts within the justice system exist and through their desire to cover it up or ignore the problem just further shows their ignorance. Through the mistreat of people of a certain race, victims of sexual assault and people who are mentally unstable the justice system makes themselves look weak and corrupt. The people we are taught to trust weren't able to achieve their main purpose. They’re needs to be change in the justice, but before we do that we need to open up the eyes of others. Social order is what keeps our society harmonious, but the people’s desire to keep it lawful gives it justice.

Cite Page:

  1. Quigley, and William P. “Racism: The Crime in Criminal Justice.” ​By Jikun Huang, Ruifa
  2. Hu, Scott Rozelle, Fangbin Qiao, Carl E. Pray :: SSRN​, 11 Dec. 2012,
  3. “Solving the Problem of Criminalizing the Mentally Ill: The Miami Model.” ​Student Handbook of Academic Policies​,
  4. Vicki Vonpi. “Young Women's Experiences with Reporting Sexual Assault to Police.” 2006,
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Representation of Racism within the Criminal Justice System in Just Mercy: Analytical Essay. (2022, August 12). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 6, 2023, from
“Representation of Racism within the Criminal Justice System in Just Mercy: Analytical Essay.” Edubirdie, 12 Aug. 2022,
Representation of Racism within the Criminal Justice System in Just Mercy: Analytical Essay. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 6 Dec. 2023].
Representation of Racism within the Criminal Justice System in Just Mercy: Analytical Essay [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Aug 12 [cited 2023 Dec 6]. Available from:
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