Research Paper: Discrimination Against Minorities in the Judicial System

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Discrimination against minorities is rampant in the United States civil and criminal justice system (Blumstein, 2009). The Discrimination is observed to be along racial, ethnic or gender-based lines (Murphy,2009). To discriminate against anyone according to DOE (2008) means to exclude them from the enjoyment in full of their social, political, economic, civil and cultural rights as well as freedoms. The concept of discrimination in itself is a contradiction of the human basic rights that stipulates that all persons are equal in regard to dignity and are therefore entitled to similar fundamental rights.

Racial and Ethnic discrimination

The cases of racial and ethnic discrimination in the U.S. justice system has been noted to be as a result of racial disparity (The Sentencing Project,2008). Racial disparity in the United States criminal justice is created when the proportion of ethnic and racial groups within the management and control of the system is much greater than the one found within the general population. Racial disparity in itself is caused by factors such as different levels of criminality, emphasis by the law enforcement on certain communities, decisions of various criminal justice practitioners who have the authority to exercise discretion in the broad aspects of the judicial processes at all stages as well as faulty/biased legislative policies.

Some of the forms of discrimination in the criminal justice system can be evidenced from the existing statistics.

Even though one may feel that the U.S. has managed to overcome the racial history that it had before, the colonialist legacies, elements of slavery as well as racism s are still evidently present in its policies as well as practices. Of all the people who are imprisoned in the United States penitentiary system, of the 2.1 million, about 70% are minority (Davis,1998).

Within the U.S. criminal justice system, minorities are disproportionately imprisoned as a consequence of racist laws, they are also denied exclusive access to the existing rehabilitative options that are availed to the White population and are also harassed as well as mistreated by the agencies. It could be true that minorities (people of color) commit the highest number of crimes as compared to the White population; there is a rather unequal targeting as well as treatment of the minorities by the criminal justice system. The discrimination is evident from the point of arrest up to the sentencing stage.

In order to highlight the fact that the judicial system is discriminatory against the minorities, we present a series of facts as gathered and presented by various authors.

Disproportionate representation of the minority in the criminal justice system

Even though the African-Americans make a mere 12.7% of the entire United States population, they make about 48.2% of the adults in the local, federal and state correctional facilities (PARC,2003). However, according to the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (NHSDA) carried out in 1998, about 72% of all the drug users were noted to be White while only 15% were African-American. Despite this statistics, the number of blacks that were incarcerated for drug-related offenses were significantly higher than the White population incarcerated for the same offense (PARC,2003).

The other stunning revelation of discrimination against minorities is evident in the fact that about Latinos makes about 11.1% of the U.S. population and just about 10% of the total United States drug users. They however make close to 18.6% of the United States prison population as well as 22.5% of individuals convicted of various drug offenses (PARC,2003).

Another show of discrimination in the U.S. judicial system is that 1 in ever 25 adult Americans Indians is placed under the direct and indirect jurisdiction of the U.S. criminal justice system, a figure which is estimated to be about twice as the number of White Americans in the same system (BJS,1999,2004).

The criminal justice system always targets minorities living on reservations and thereby not respecting the treaties that affirm native sovereignty.

The Federal Government has been indicated to be in violation of the sovereignty of the Native tribes. Over the last couple of years, the U.S. federal government has come up with a systematic pattern of forcefully taking over the total jurisdiction of a large number of crimes thereby removing them from their tribal authority as well a s awarding itself the power to punish the tribesmen and women. The erosion of native sovereignty has taken place regardless of all the treaties that have been signed to enable the tribes to maintain their own criminal justice system (Ross,1998) .

The other piece of legislation that shows how the U.S. judicial system has discriminated against the minority and native population is the Public Law 280. This piece of legislation has denied the Native population the exclusive right to totally take control of their law enforcement via their tribal systems as thus has resulted in the rather discriminatory sentencing for various crimes that are committed against the minority, native population.

The Public Law 280 which was passed by the U.S. congress in 1953 offered the various U.S. states the power to cede jurisdiction over all reservations that lie within their borders. This law was passed without the consent of the tribes. This therefore means that the law enforcement for the various Native reservations are generally taken care of by the state police as well as county and state laws (CPC, 1997) as opposed to handling by the tribe.

Another rather clear evidence of this is that Black Males are thirty-two percent likely to serve time in U.S. prison at a certain moment in their lives while the Hispanic males have a seventeen-percent chance of serving time in prison. The white males however have a six percent chance of serving in prison. If the same rate of incarceration that is being observed at the moment persist, then about 1 in every 3 Black American males and 1 in every 6 Hispanic males as well as 1 in every 17 White American males are basically expected to serve time in prison at a certain time of their lives (The Sentencing Project, 2004).

In regard to women of color who are sentenced for drug-related crimes, they remain to be the highest growing portion of the United States prison population (The Drug Policy Alliance, 2005).

The impact discrimination of minorities on the United States Criminal Justice System

The discrimination of the minorities by the United States Criminal Justice System has been show to have direct effect on the felons as well as on their families and the general society. The impact of the imprisonment in itself is a direct impact on the individuals who are incarcerated (Mauer,1999). While the removal of the violent offenders who are a threat to the community may be a good idea, the removal of a large piece of property may never be a great idea.

Incarceration has also been shown to the high rate of imprisonment of African-Americans may contribute to a general reduction in the number of marriageable African-American males in the American community. The lack of families usually results in negative effects on the society such as poor moral standards (prostitution) as well as the higher rate of spread of diseases. Other negative effects include high homicide rates as well as AIDS-related deaths (Mauer,1999).

Rise in poverty levels in discriminated communities

High rate of imprisonment also leads to a reduced level of social cohesion in the discriminated minorities' communities. This is because there is a link between incarceration and poverty. Oliver et al. (2005) indicated that the imprisonment of black male results in a high rate of black child poverty. The communities with a high rate of felons from among them lacks roper role models in their families, religious systems as well as schools. The opposite is true for the other non-discriminated upon communities.

It is worth noting that the effects of a high rate of incarceration as a consequence of a flawed and biased criminal judicial system extends beyond the current generation (Mauer,1999).This is because its not only affects the well being and the stability of the current families but also their offspring as well who are also most likely to be subjected to similar treatment and hence a similar system of poverty and discrimination.

Disenfranchisement

Due to the U.S. laws that disenfranchise convicts as well as other ex-felons in several states, close to 1.4 Million Black males or rather about 13% of the adult population is permanently disenfranchised as a consequence of a felony conviction. In a total of 14 States, felony convictions is ground for a permanent disenfranchisement and in close to 7 of these states, close to 4 black males are disenfranchised permanently. This therefore shows the effects that disproportionate incarceration of the minority can have on their basic rights such as voting rights.

There is therefore a possibility that the majority may manipulate the disproportionate nature of minority incarceration together with the disenfranchisement laws in order to win elections as well as pass other bills in the Congress that may not favor the minority. What is saddening are statistics… [END OF PREVIEW]

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