Us Justice Department & Racial Inequality
U. S. Justice Department and Racial Inequality Racial inequality in the criminal justice system is a belief that through research and statistics is a structural inequality that exists at different levels noted throughout the system stemming from those convicted and those convicting. According to literature published by the Leadership Conference, the nation’s premier civil and human right coalition, “racial inequality is growing, not receding.
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Our criminal laws, while facially neutral, are enforced in a manner that is massively and pervasively biased. The injustices of the criminal justice system threaten to render irrelevant fifty years of hard-fought civil rights progress” (Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, 2011). In today’s society of crime and punishment, racial profiling plays a big role in the racial inequality amongst Blacks, Hispanics, and White non-Hispanics. In order to appreciate racial inequality in the U. S.
Justice system, we must look at how racial profiling plays a role in racial inequality, the criminal prosecution, convictions, prison sentence and time served, as well as the criminal justice structure itself. Racial profiling can be summarized as targeting a person based on their race, religion, and ethnicity (ACLU: American Civil Rights Union, 2005). Statistics from 2004 retrieved from Prison Policy Initiave, show there is a larger amount of Black incarcerated than Hispanics and White non-Hispanics (Prison Policy Initiave, 2004).
One might ask the question “Is this racial inequality? ” In order to answer this question, we must also look at the crimes committed as well as demographics involved. According to an article written by Christopher Reinhart, the state with the highest violent crime rate per 100,000 inhabitants was the District of Columbia (Reinhart, 2008). Violent crimes are described as murder and non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault (Reinhart, 2008). The census in 2008 revealed that there were 74. % of people between the ages of 18-65 nationally with 49. 1% being male. This census also revealed, White, non-Hispanic accounted for 75. 1% of the population, Blacks at 12. 3%, and Hispanics at 12. 5% (U. S. Census Bureau, 2008). As stated in an article published in ScienceDaily in 2010, “the strongest factors explaining the racial gap in murder arrests were divorce, unemployment and level of drug-use in the community. Racial integration was not strongly associated with a reduction in the racial gap” (University of Maryland, 2010).
To make a connection with lifestyle and crime, we must appreciate the lack of education, resources, financial stability, and amount of availability to drugs within the communities most affected by crime. Drug possession in the form of dealing has been noted as the highest crime committed by Black males. In the article, “The Truth About Black Crime”, Jones explains that while the Black male population as a whole is more likely to be arrested, prosecuted, and convicted, Jones also looks at the crime committed.
The majority of Black males arrested, prosecuted, and convicted is due to drugs (Jones, 2010). According to “Race and the Drug War” the higher accountancies of African Americans being arrested and convicted on drug charges are due to low income situations and racial profiling. (Race and the drug war). The effects of the conviction and arrest have also been attributed to the high account of repeat offenders as well as family involvement, for example, children following in their parents footsteps. In comparison, Hispanic males, according to J. J.
Hensley, are the majority race in prison in Maricopa County (Hensley, 2009). This is likely due to the increase in laws governing illegal immigrants. According to Hensley, there has not been an increase in crime, there has been an increased in enforcement. Once arrested, usually not on immigrant charges, the illegal immigrant can no longer be released on bail, thus causing an increase in the Hispanic race among those in the prison system. Although the rate of White males incarcerated is lower than that of the Black and Hispanic, some may argue this is due to racial profiling.
It has been noted that one’s race plays a vital role in the chances of being pulled over by the police. According to a New York article published in the City Journal in 2009, Blacks were pulled over 55% of the time and were only 23% of the city’s population while Hispanics, being 28% of the population were pulled over 32%, and Whites were pulled over 10% of the time and accounted for 38% of the population (MacDonald, 2010). Prison sentences and time served are based on the crime committed. I will discuss violent crimes and drug crimes. Violent offenders are persons convicted of homicide, kidnapping, forcible rape, sexual assault, robbery, assault, or other crimes involving the threat or imposition of harm upon the victim, including extortion, intimidation, reckless endangerment, hit-and-run driving with injury, or child abuse” (Greenfeld, 1995, p. 1). According to data collected from States by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), violent offenders served 48% of their sentence in 1992, an average of 42 months of their 89 month sentence (Greenfeld, 1995). Drug offenses consist of possession and trafficking.
In Illinois there are four state statutes that address drug offenses. These include “the cannabis control act, the hypodermic syringes and needles act, the drug paraphernalia control act, and the controlled substances act” (Olson, 2000. p. 1). Drug offenses are also broken up into classes that determine the sentence to be placed. These classes range from 1-4 and class X with class four felonies as the least serious leading to either prison or probation (Olson, 2000). Class 1, 2, and 3 involve either possession of a large amount or sale of a small amount leading to either probation or prison (Olson, 2000).
Class X felonies include the sale or delivery of cocaine or heroin in 15 or greater grams leading to a minimum of six years in prison (Olson, 2000). The average length of incarceration for a class X offender in 1999 was 3. 9 years while the average sentence was greater than eight years. Class four felons served an average of seven months when the average sentence was 1. 8 years (Olson, 2000). According the BJS, Black male offenders serve more of their prison sentence that Hispanics, and non-Hispanic Whites (Greenfeld, 1995). Finally, we must look at the criminal justice system structure itself. A criminal justice system is a set of legal and social institutions for enforcing the criminal law in accordance with a defined set of procedural rules and limitations” (Frase & Weidner, YEAR). Though it would be difficult to produce a ratio of White non-Hispanic judges and African American judges due to prejudice, the African American judges remain the minority. Thurgood Marshall became the first African American to enter the U. S. Supreme Court Justice from 1967-1991 (Brunner, YEAR). The first African American Federal Judge was William Henry Hastie in 1946 (Brunner, YEAR).
The U. S. Supreme Court was established in 1789 with an all White male cabinet. It wasn’t for another 178 years that the African American culture was introduced in the judge’s seat. While the U. S. Supreme court remains predominately White non-Hispanic, there are many opportunities for the African American race to step in. America as a whole has become more diverse and culturally accepting. Does the tipping of the scale to favor the White race mean there is racial inequality within the justice system when it comes to lawmakers and convictions?
It would seem so due to the sheer fact that without equal representation, one group will be the minority with the other as the majority. While working on this paper, I also served on jury duty in Federal Court. I saw racial inequality first hand. This inequality began with the jury selection process. I was one of 60 people on the jury selection panel. I was being interviewed by two lawyers, one White female and the other African American male with a White male judge. The court reported was a White female. The jury selection panel was a mixture of races and evenly male and female.
We were presented with the case and then interviewed to see if we would be a good fit on the jury. This was a rape of a minor care with the defendant an African American male. I felt as though this defendant was viewed as guilty until proven innocent. All eyes were on him and there was so much hatred in the court room. After several hours of interview, I was one of the 24 chosen to participate on the jury. As the case proceeded and went to conviction, I realized how unequal this case was. First of all, it was female and White race dominate. Within the jury, 17 jurors were White and 15 were female.
The victim was also White and female. There was so much slander thrown about the court room because of the defendants color, education, past history with the law, and his upbringing. It was almost as though there was not enough evidence to convict him, so all the other information was brought about as a judgment on his character. After deliberation and we did not feel as though there was enough information and evidence for a conviction, the defendant was released. This decision took several hours and again I saw firsthand how intolerant our society is based on race alone.
As we were sanctioned to make a decision, racial comments were thrown about. It was not until a White middle aged woman stood up in the room and made the comment, “What are we here to do, judge someone based on race, or judge an indecent based on facts? If you are here and judging on race, close your eyes and pretend the defendant is your son. Is there enough evidence to convict your son? ” This was the moment when the room became silent and the facts were what was being judged and not the defendants color. There was not enough evidence to convict this man, color or not, he s innocent.
I have discussed racial inequality in the justice system. I have shown that due to the fact of skin color, one is more likely to be pulled over and serve a longer sentence than that of a non-Hispanic White man. I have shown there is inequality structured within the structure. I have broken it down into three separate races describing what they are most convicted for, how long they are sentenced, and how long they serve their sentence. Racial inequality does exist. This inequality stems from the time of slavery when diversity was not accepted. With immigration and integration, we are a more diverse society.
With this diversity we are exposed to cultures and traditions that would not once be they way we thought. Also because of the way the diversity was established and slavery was abolished, many people still believe in keeping other races down and still do not accept others for who they are based on their skin color, thus leading to racial inequality. References ACLU: American Civil Rights Union. (2005, November 23). Racial profiling: Definition. Brunner, B. Famous firsts by African Americans. Retrieved January 25, 2011, from Retrieved from http://www. infoplease. com/spot/bhmfirsts. html Jones, R.
J. (2010). The truth about black crime. Retrieved January 25, 2011, from Retrieved from http://www. peace. ca/truthaboutblackcrime. htm Frase, R. S. , & Weidner, R. R. Criminal justice system – structural and theoretical components of criminal justice systems, the systems in operation, the importance of viewing criminal justice as a system. Retrieved January 25, 2011, from Retrieved from http://law. jrank. org/pages/858/Criminal-Justice-System. html Greenfeld, L. J. (1995, April 1). Prison sentence and time served for violence (pp. 1-3). Retrieved January 25, 2011, from Retrieved from http://bjs. jp. usdo. gov/ Hensley, J. (2009, July 7). Hispanic males are now majority in county jails. Retrieved January 25, 2011, from The Arizona Republic: Retrieved from http://www. azcentral. com/news/articles/2009/07/07/20090707jailpopshift0707. htm Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, L. C. E. F. (2011). Justice on trial. in racial disparities in the American justice system. Retrieved from http://www. civilrights. org: Retrieved January 28, 2011. MacDonald, H. (2010, May 14). Distorting the truth about crime and race. City Journal, 21(1). Retrieved January 25, 2011, from Retrieved from