Racism In The Criminal Justice System

6805 words - 27 pages

Racism in police treatment of minorities has created great disparities in incarceration amongst the races. Blatant cases of racist law enforcement that are covered in the news are a testament to the fact that racism within police departments exists from coast to coast. However, these are only the cases that people find out about; there are countless other cases of police racism and brutality that are not reported.
A series of reports that have been published in the last few years have shown that young black men are being incarcerated at a rate far greater than their number in the overall population. In the fall of 1995, Vincent Schiraldi, executive director of the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice in San Francisco, released a study that found that nationally 33% of the black men in their 20~s were under the control of the criminal justice system in some way, shape or form. This shows an increase from 1991, when 25% of the black men nationwide ages 20 to 29 were incarcerated, on probation, or on parole (Butterfield 1996).
Schiraldi, attributed the higher incarceration rates for black men to tougher punishment for the use of crack cocaine than for other drugs; harsh new sentencing laws; the prison construction boom; and poverty, lack of good jobs and poor education in inner cities. We will address how tougher punishments have resulted in worse treatment for minorities in the criminal justice system. The tougher punishment for the use of crack cocaine, which is prevalent in minority neighborhoods, and the harsh new sentencing laws are a result of a new, stringent brand of law enforcement in which officers are trying to arrest as many people as possible. Unfortunately, as a result of this new brand of law enforcement, minorities, who are disproportionately thought to be suspects of crime (see "The Rise of Local News and its Effects on Perceptions of Race Politically and Socially" by DeRonnie Pitts), are getting the short end of the stick This can be seen in the high incarceration rates of black males (Butterfield 1996)
Pail I: Police Profiling and The Phenomenon of DWB: Driving While Black
The racism that contributes to the disproportionate incarceration of blacks starts before people get arrested It begins with the disproportionate targeting of blacks as suspects Consider the following scenario:
James Phelps doesn't like to drive late at night. While on the highway, he is overly cautious and always keeps his speed in check with cruise control He avoids neighborhoods where police patrol often, but when he does encounter an officer, he becomes nervous and expects to be pulled over James behaves this way not because of any criminal activities or intentions on his part, but because he is black, and he knows there's a good chance he will be pulled over accordingly All of his African-American friends have been stopped, and they too share his apprehension. "It's a way of life, says the highly successful electrical engineer, "You get used to it."...

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