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. [...]
[...] Thus, as minorities are discriminated against in the system, their perception of this bias causes their faith in the system to decrease, which leads them to conclude that the laws themselves are illegitimate and thus not requiring compliance. Therefor, it is not too far of a stretch to conclude that racial biases are causing more crime (Cole 173; Mauer 179; Russell 142). The children of imprisoned minorities are obviously harmed by having one or both of their parents incarcerated. In addition to the evident problem of who will raise the children while the parents are serving their time, there is also a problem of respect. [...]
[...] Marc Mauer pointed out in Race to Incarcerate that in 1995 almost one in three black men between the ages of twenty and twenty-nine years old were under the supervision of the criminal justice system (179). He further proclaimed that black boy born in 1991 stood a twenty-nine percent chance of being imprisoned at some point in his life, compared to a sixteen percent chance for a Hispanic boy and a four percent chance for a white (Mauer 178). The disproportionate representation of minorities is particularly evident on death row. [...]
[...] The best answer to the question posed at the beginning of this paper seems to be that the criminal justice system is racially biased, and it is racially biased because the society that created and maintains it is racially biased. This bias harms all of us, not just the imprisoned minorities, but whites are unwilling to seriously consider the situation (partly) because doing so would make them feel guilty. Also, whites have the luxury to ignore issues of race when they please, whereas minorities do not have the same option. [...]
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