Representative System of Government Research Proposal

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Arrest Rates. In 1990, more than 10 million criminal counts were logged. Although only comprising 12% of the general population, arrest rates for blacks were disproportionate for every offense except drunken driving. Blacks, for instance, accounted for 61.2% of all robbery arrests, 54.7% of the suspects arrested for murder and manslaughter, and 43.2% in cases of rape. (Interestingly enough, the annual victimization survey conducted by the Census Bureau found that only 33.2% of the women who said they had been raped identified their attackers as black. Because the race of the rapist does not seem to affect whether a report will be forthcoming, this disparity suggests that attacks by whites are less apt to lead to arrests) (Ayres & Steven, 2008).

The racial disparity in arrest rates is clear. How do we explain it? Some of the disparity reflects the tragic reality that desperate circumstances often increase the likelihood that an individual will turn to desperate measures. Some of the disparity, however, reflects subtle racial biases in law enforcement. For instance, the decision to fight the war on drugs on the front lines of the inner city is logical, right? Maybe not. In a 1993 opinion piece, Kenneth Johnson, a judge for the Baltimore City Circuit, cited studies indicating that there are more drugs and drug users in American suburbs than there are in the inner cities! (Donohue & Steven, 2009) Given the focus of our law enforcement efforts, however, arrest rates will never reflect that reality.Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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TOPIC: Research Proposal on Representative System of Government Has Assignment

The inordinate focus of law enforcement on racial minorities also is seen in the scores of African-American males -- together with prominent athletes, members of Congress, actors, and business influential's who have practiced the humiliation of being blocked on the nation's roads for no other 3 cause than the supposed traffic offense mockingly referred to as "DWB" -- "driving while black" (Martin, 2009). The extent of this difficulty has encouraged Congressman John Conyers (D-Michigan) to propose legislation to address this unjust practice. The Traffic Stops Statistics Act of 1997 would encourage police departments to keep detailed records of traffic stops, including the race and ethnicity of the person stopped. Such data would help determine the full range of this problem all over the country. In a 1995 Gallup Poll, both whites (52%) and blacks (68%) agreed that police racism next to blacks is widespread across the country (Coate & Glenn, 2003).

Sentencing . Continuing racial discrimination in sentencing combines with arrest statistics to exaggerate differences in crime patterns between blacks and whites. Jody Armour, a Professor of Law at the University of Southern California, cites a 1996 New York State study revealing that 30% of blacks and Hispanics received harsher sentences than whites in New York for comparable crimes. In addition, about 4,000 blacks and Hispanics are incarcerated each year for crimes under circumstances that do not lead to incarceration for whites (Dunnette, et al. 2006). There is an ongoing debate over manifest bias in the drug laws themselves. Powder cocaine is purer than crack cocaine and worth more. Yet it takes possession of 500 grams of powder (worth $40,000 in 1994) to equal the five-year sentence that someone possessing five grams of crack cocaine (worth only $250) would receive. The fact that whites are the main users of powder cocaine, whereas blacks primarily use crack, leads to fewer arrests and lighter sentences for whites than for blacks (Martin, 2009).

The impact of such disparities in sentencing is tremendous. For instance, nearly one in four black men between the ages of 20 and 29 is either in prison or on probation or parole. Although blacks only make up about 12% of our general population, they constitute over 40% of state and federal inmates. A 1997 report by the Sentencing Project, "Intended and Unintended Consequences: State Racial Disparity in Imprisonment," revealed that one in seven African-American men is permanently or currently disenfranchised as a result of a felony conviction. Specifically, 1.46 million black males of a total voting-age population of 10.4 million have lost the right to vote because of a felony conviction. About 510,000 are permanently disenfranchised because of laws in 13 states. The remaining 950,000 are currently ineligible to vote because of laws in 46 states regarding offenders in prison or on probation or parole.

Calling the new statistics "disturbing," Mark Kappelhoff of the ACLU said that they are not completely unexpected in light of the racial difference found all through the nation's criminal justice system where black men are being blocked, arrested, imprisoned and sentenced in proportions far higher than is right or fair in a democratic society. Unreasonably without an entire segment of our society from voting further polarizes our country along racial lines, and laws that aim voting, one of the most principal features of our participatory democracy, weaken the whole thing for which this country positions.

A 1995 Oakland Tribune report on sentencing for cocaine offenders is equally troubling. Earlier, we presented powder cocaine as the drug of choice for whites, crack cocaine for blacks. Clearly, though, some whites do sell and abuse crack cocaine, just as some blacks sell and abuse powder cocaine. Even in these cases, however, racial disparities still occur in sentencing. The Oakland Tribune report indicated that, most often, black and Hispanic crack dealers are tried in federal courts serving Los Angelesand the surrounding areas. If convicted, federal courts typically levy a 10-year mandatory sentence. Between 1988 and 1994, however, not a single white was convicted of a crack cocaine offense in those same federal courts! Rather, in those few cases when whites were arrested for distributing or using crack cocaine, they were prosecuted in state court, where sentences are much lighter. In state court, a convicted defendant can expect to receive a maximum five-year sentence, often serving no more than a year in jail (Dunnette, et al. April 2006).

Mock jury studies also suggest a tendency for racial bias to affect jury deliberations in death-penalty cases. Psychologist John Dovidio, for instance, described a recent mock jury study in which white contestants made proposals for the death penalty in a murder case. As anticipated, those who scored high on a racism scale made considerably stronger recommendations for capital verdicts for black defendants than for white defendants (Martin, 2009) although the facts in the case were identical. Also as expected, white participants who scored low on the racism scale generally did not discriminate against the black defendant. In a condition where racial prejudice could be discounted as a motivation for the reason that a black juror advocated the death penalty for the black defendant, however, even those white participants who scored low on the racism scale showed racial bias in sentencing.

The results of these laboratory studies are reflected in reality. Blacks represent a strikingly disproportionate percentage (40%) of the prisoners currently under sentence of death. A 1987 study prepared for the Supreme Court found that murderers who killed whites faced a 10 times greater chance of a death sentence than did murderers of black victims. Even after taking into account the ferocity of the crime and the social status of the victim, the prospect for the death penalty was still four times higher when the victim was white. Whether such racial bias is the result of own-race favoritism or other-race antagonism is relatively irrelevant to the fact that racial bias in sentencing, even capital sentencing, exists (Martin, 2009).

Race and Representation in the U.S. Justice Workforce, 2000

The 2000 U.S. census provides some insight on the current statistical representation of (non-Hispanic) Whites, Blacks, Asians, American Indians, and Hispanics (any race) in the U.S. justice workforce (Dunnette, et al. 2006). This section considers ethno racial group representation within and across six occupations from the proposed division of justice-related labor (Donohue & Steven, 2009). To consider systemic distributions of group influence, occupations of two comparative types are considered: "professional and administrative" (judge, lawyer, and administrative police), and "service" occupations (public police and detective, legal assistant, and corrections officer). Although representing top, middle, and lower tiers, these occupations are distinguished conceptually according to their "task defining" versus "task executing" roles (Martin, 2009).

Even though trend data are not provided, it should be noted that these figures reflect considerable twentieth-century changes in both the amount of people working in justice-related professions on the whole, and ethno racial group distributions. Lawyers are illustrative of this shift. In 1900, there were approximately 113,000 lawyers in the United States, 99% of who were White men. In 1940, there were nearly 177,000 lawyers in the United States, and 97% were White men. By 1990, the total number of lawyers produce 747,000, with the proportion White men lessening to 71% (Coate & Glenn, 2003). By 2000, there were in the region of 870,000 lawyers in the United States, 65% of who were White men (approximately 11% of lawyers in 2000 were non-White, and more or less 30% were women). Women number much of the boost… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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