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Bias against blacks and hispanics in the criminal justice system

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  1. Introduction.
    1. Is there a racial bias in America's criminal justice system?
    2. Dubious distinctions.
    3. The prevalence of racism in our society.
  2. Understanding the causes of the bias and assessing its impact.
    1. The disproportionate representation of minorities.
    2. The study carried out by Dr David Baldus of the University of Iowa.
    3. The importance of Baldus's findings.
  3. The most frequently voiced criticism.
  4. The costs to society as a whole resulting from the biases.
    1. Blacks - significantly less faith in the system than whites.
    2. The children of imprisoned minorities.
    3. The result of our over-zealous and racially prejudiced system in the process of democracy.
  5. Conclusion.

Is there a racial bias in America's criminal justice system? This seems like a fairly straightforward yes or no question, yet it has caused heated debate between researchers throughout the second half of this century. Recently the debate has intensified as several states move to enact a moratorium on capital punishment in response to researchers who say that it is so racially biased as to be unconstitutional. Evidence that supports the theory of racial bias includes statistics showing that blacks and Hispanics are over represented in prisons and jails. Researchers who claim no bias say that these elevated rates are the result of higher rates of offending, often caused by an interaction of such variables as class, employment opportunities, and single parent households. These may seem like dubious distinctions at best, and moot points at worst. Indeed, does it matter if it is the prejudice of society that incarcerates these minorities or prejudice within the system?

[...] The Anatomy of Racial Inequality. Massachusetts: Harvard University Press Lynch, Michael, Patterson, E. Britt. Race and Criminal Justice. New York: Harrow and Heston Mann, Coramae. Unequal Justice: A Question of Color. Indiana: Indiana University Press Mauer, Marc. Race to Incarcerate. New York: The New Press Russell, Katheryn. The Color of Crime: Racial Hoaxes, White Fear, Black Protectionism, Police Harassment, and Other Macroaggressions. New York: New York University Press Tischler, Eric. ?1996 Correctional Population.? Corrections Today 61.4 (1999): 14-20. Zimring, Franklin. The Contradictions of American [...]

[...] According to David Cole in No Equal Justice Gallup poll found that ?seventy-seven percent of blacks and forty-five percent of whites think that the criminal justice system treats blacks more harshly than whites (170). Furthermore, he cited a 1995 U.S. Justice Department survey which found that while sixty-five percent of whites ?expressed a great deal or quite a of confidence in the police, a mere thirty-one percent of blacks felt the same (171). The implications of this are evident in light of research by social psychologists studying compliance with rules and laws. [...]

[...] Researchers have offered varying theories on why Blacks and Hispanics are over represented in the criminal justice system. Compounding this issue is that blacks and whites hold contrary views on the fairness of the system, thus it is not unreasonable to expect these theories to be influenced by the race of their proponents. Overall, blacks are more likely to believe that the system works against them, while whites tend to believe that the system is just and effective (Russell, 26; Cole 170). [...]

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