Racism in the Criminal Court System Research Paper

Pages: 6 (1566 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 8  ·  Level: College Sophomore  ·  Topic: Race

¶ … Racism in the Criminal Justice System

The common causes of racial disparity in the American criminal justice system

Racism, which is defined by Schmid (2008) as the deliberate infliction of consideration in unequal measure and motivated by the general desire to basically dominate on the basis of race alone, is very common in the contemporary criminal justice system. In this paper, we discuss racism in the criminal court system. The paper discusses the background, development of rationale and justifications with an incorporation of the Saint Leo Core Value of Integrity.

Racism, which is defined by Schmid (2008) as the deliberate infliction of consideration in unequal measure and motivated by the general desire to basically dominate on the basis of race alone, is very common in the contemporary criminal justice system. In this paper, we discuss racism in the criminal court system. The paper discusses the background, development of rationale and justifications with an incorporation of the Saint Leo Core Value of Integrity.

Background of racism in the criminal justice system

The criminal justice system is noted by the Samoa Law Reform Commission to consist of three major parts; the legislative arm which creates the laws, the adjudication which is the courts and the corrections which consist of jails, probation as well as parole. According to the Justice Works (2001), racism in the American criminal justice system can be traced from the periods of slavery. It is therefore an extension of historical injustices that were meted against black people slavery years. Over the years, racism in the American criminal justice system spread started to target other races who are considered to be minorities in the U.S. The races that are considered to be minorities are African-Americans, Asian-Americans, and American Indians among other minor ones. It is worth noting that even though slavery was officially abolished in the world, racism in the criminal justice system has however persisted.

The common causes of racial disparity in the American criminal justice system

According to the Sentencing Project (2008), racial disparity which exists in the criminal justice system occurs when the proportion of an ethnic group or racial group within the system's control is far much greater that the group's proportion in the general population. An example of such a disparity is the observation that nationally, the African-American population accounts for about 12.7% of the U.S. population, they nonetheless account for 48.2% of the total adult population in local, state and federal prisons as well as jails (PARC,2003).

Racial discrimination is the belief that one person is better than the other or inferior to the other based on one's skin colour. The notion that various inherent traits of human racial groups justify the act of discrimination. Racial discrimination in the American justice system began in 1619, when the first slave ship carrying African slave arrived in the new world. The slaves were treated as objects and not human beings and to manage these objects slave codes or laws were put in place (Ingram, 2009). These laws gave the white slave owners the right to treat the black slaves as they wished and not limited to whipping, branding, castration and execution

Of recent years, the American justice system has witnessed extreme racial discriminations on minority races such as the African-Americans and the Latinos. This was seen in the way the minority groups were tried in court rooms full of white juries and filled with whites and also evidenced in the prison population in which minority groups such as African-Americans formed the highest population and also in the number of executions conducted country wide as witnessed between 1930 and 1972 when the number of American of African origin stood at 405 of the total 455 executions conducted (Russell & Russell-Brown, 1998).

The criminal justice system is divided into three categories namely, the police, the judiciary or court systems and the correctional departments. Discrimination has been witnessed in the law enforcement system whereby police officers have used excessive force and brutality while making arrests on African-Americans compared to the White counterparts. Decisions to arrest have at times made on racial basis. In cases of minor offenses committed by the under age, law enforcement officers at times may consider the conduct of the person and decide to make an arrest if they deem the person disrespectful. Apart from one's demeanour it was also noted that the police used the context of one's residence in deciding whether to apprehend, threaten or use force on a suspect in making an arrest in neighbourhoods that are dominated by minority groups (Cyndi, 2004).

Another area in which Racial discrimination was witnessed was in the recruitment of the law enforcement officers. It was noticed that fewer African-Americans and those of Hispanic origin were employed in the police system compared tom the whites who have dominated the system since inception. Research conducted on the incidences of shooting of suspects by the police indicated that African-Americans were more likely to be short by the police compared to the Whites in New York in 1982.This was due to the fact that the blacks were more likely to be involved in armed incidences. A similar study carried out in Memphis indicated that more Whites were involved in armed incidences but still the rate of shooting of blacks by the police was higher compared to the same on whites (Russell & Russell-Brown, 1998). It was therefore concluded that the law enforcer shot their victims on the basis of race and not offence.

The second part of the criminal justice system that has witnessed high incidences of racial prejudice is the court system. It was first noted that in terms of employment in the justice system, the judiciary was dominated by more white juries compared to juries from the minority populations. Cases in which African-Americans were offenders were listened to by an all white bench of judges and that many cases involved blacks as offenders and victims than whites. Some cases involving blacks were likely to be determined and the offender sentenced with little or no evidence presented as was seen in the case of Scottsboro Boys of 1931 where nine youths of African-American origin, aged 13 to 21, were convicted to death on electric chair on allegations of raping two white ladies, after only three days of listening by the white jury. One of the women later recanted the story due to the public interest in it and revealed that they made up the story in order to avoid a vagrancy jail term for sleeping with two white men. In spite of the evidence that no rape took place, the boys were incarcerated and the last one released after serving seventeen years (Russell & Russell-Brown, 1998).

The disparity of conviction of blacks and whites showed that African-American offenders were likely to be sentenced to longer jail terms compared to white offenders of the same offence. In terms of bails it was noted that blacks who could not post standard bails on time compared to those with readily available cash.

A research conducted in 1991 revealed that more black men were prosecuted and charged with offences calling for mandatory sentences than white men and that prosecution was less likely to listen to bargain pleas by black defendant and as a result blacks had almost 50% longer imprisonment terms compared to the whites in the same offence (Cyndi, 2004).

Another study conducted in New York in 1991 by a panel of judges, law experts and attorneys revealed that two different judicial systems were conducted in the city. One meant for the whites and another different on for the minority populations. Inequalities, mistreatment and injustice on racial grounds were noted. The minority courts were heavily infested with rats and roaches and family relations of the minorities were mistreated by the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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