The criminal justice system is a set of organizations and procedures set up by governments to control wrongdoing and force punishments on the individuals who disregard the laws. The main frameworks are state and federal. The state criminal justice systems handle wrongdoings perpetrated inside their state limits and government, the federal criminal system handles violations carried out on federal property or in more than one state. This system is supposed to be equal yet the nature of offenses, differential policing policies and practices, sentencing laws and biases are possible contributors to disparities in the system. The severity of the offense, prior record, age and education level are also taking into account when a decision is being made. Our prison system today varies immensely with ascending numbers of minority groups jailed within the system. Racial and ethnic imbalances continue in the United States and no disparity is more evident than that found in the criminal justice system. Disparity usually refers to a difference that is unfair, disparity in the criminal justice system stems from racial disparity which concludes that the proportion of a racial ethnic group within the control of the system is greater than the population of that group outside that control.
The diversity issue focused on in this paper will be racial disparity in sentencing. This paper will also focus on some of the reasons why racial disparity exists within sentencing. One of the research methods used in this paper will be case studies. In society today there are a diversity of citizens, of offenders, and leaders within in the court system. However, race still plays a big role in the Criminal Justice system especially during the sentencing portion. Although racial dynamics may have changed over time, race still exerts an undeniable presence in sentencing process. This ranges from disparate traffic stops due to racial profiling to imposition of the death penalty based on the race of
In today’s society, discrimination continues to affect millions of minorities from inappropriate name calling to being shot by a law enforcement officer because you were perceived to be dangerous. The underlying effects of racial discrimination are seen in all aspects of our society, especially in our social institutions. These social institutions range from the educational system to our government, yet racial discrimination is more evident in the criminal justice system. When analyzing how the criminal justice system discriminates against minorities we are able to do so through the visible disparities within the system. Unfortunately, these disparities display African Americans having the highest population rates in the criminal justice system, therefore, we can immediately conclude this disparity in population is due to the injustices conducted by the system. Thus, there is a need for urgent change not just within the criminal justice system but within all social institutions beginning with our government. This change should create greater opportunities for minorities to enter the political field in our government as well as promoting higher participating in voting. Yet, the criminal justice system within all its aspects practices discrimination due to its deeply interwoven prejudice, institutional racism, and socioeconomic status.
In this paper I will illustrate racial disparity in sentencing in the criminal justice system. The causes of racial disparity and the reasons it is on the rise, the research statistics, and the proposed solutions are discussed.
In modern-day America the issue of racial discrimination in the criminal justice system is controversial because there is substantial evidence confirming both individual and systemic biases. While there is reason to believe that there are discriminatory elements at every step of the judicial process, this treatment will investigate and attempt to elucidate such elements in two of the most critical judicial junctures, criminal apprehension and prosecution.
The existence of racial disparity and structural inequality within the criminal justice system renders the concept of true justice for all unobtainable. The statistics of convictions and prison sentences by race definitely support the concept that discrimination is a problem in the justice system as well as the insignificantly number of minority judges and lawyers. There are a multitude of circumstances that influence these statistics according to the “Central Eight” criminogenic risk factors. The need for programs and methods to effectively deter those at risk individuals has never been greater and the lack of such programs is costing society in countless ways.
At the prosecution stage, African Americans are subject to racially biased charges and plea agreements (TLC, 2011). African Americans are less likely to have their charges dismissed or reduced or to receive any kind of alternate sentencing than their white counterparts (TLC, 2011). In the last stage, the finding of guilt and sentencing, the decisions of jurors may be affected by race (Toth et al, 2008) African Americans receive racially discriminatory sentences from judges (TLC, 2011). A New York study from 1990 to 1992 revealed one-third of minorities would have receive a lesser sentence if they were treated the same as white and there would have been a 5 percent decrease in African Americans sent to prison during that time period if they had received the same probation privileges (TLC, 2011). African Americans receive death sentences more than whites who have committed similar crimes (Toth et al, 2008). Because of the unfair treatment from the beginning to the end of the justice system there is an over represented amount of African Americans in prison (Toth et al, 2008). Some of the problems faced by African Americans in prison are gangs, racial preferences given to whites, and unfair treatment by prison guards (Toth et al, 2008).
“Inter-judge sentencing disparity, in the view of sentencing reformers, offends important rule of law principles, erodes respect for the courts, and undermines the deterrent effect of criminal law.” (Scott, 4) The Federal Sentencing Guidelines, were created by the United States Sentencing Commission, were put in place to minimize unwarranted disparity among the sentences handed out by judges. These same guidelines that helped to decrease disparity among the sentences that same offenders received or did not receive, were made advisory in a serious of decisions from 2005 to 2007. (Scott, 1) Giving too much power to judges, through the advisory of the federal sentencing guidelines, has since created a surge in inter-judge disparities. Unwarranted
Similarly, there is need to examine whether race plays a role in determining if one is convicted or released. This is because an all-white bench convicted Hunt, who is of African American descent, of a crime he did not commit. Whether racial prejudice plays any role in our criminal and justice system needs critical examine since the law should be fair and equal before all. A non-discriminative judicial system will enhance public trust and eliminate cases of wrongful conviction.
Mandatory sentencing has been a big driver in the large population of incarcerated individuals in the United States. District attorneys are more aggressive in how they file charges against the arrestee. While the country has seen a decline in crime, new
In a research paper titled “The Interaction of Race, Gender, and Age in Criminal Sentencing: The Punishment Cost of Being Young, Black, and Male” three university researchers ask a series of question to determine if race, gender, and age have an effect on judicial sentencing, and how “these factors might contextualize on another”. The authors look at previous research to help in aiding what questions would be appropriate to ask for this study. They cite a number of different sources to help them achieve their goal of finding an answer to their questions.
The Mass Incarceration in the United States is a major topic of discussion in our society and has raised many questions about our criminal justice system. There are few topics disputed as much in criminal justice as the relationship between race, ethnicity, and criminal outcomes. Specifically, the large disparities that minorities face regarding incarceration in our country. Minorities such as Hispanics and African Americans are sentenced at far higher rates than their white counterparts. There are multiple factors that influence this such as the judicial system, racial profiling by law enforcement, and historical biases (Kamula, Clark-Coulson, Kamula, 2010). Additionally, the defendants race was found to be highly associated with either a jail or prison sentence; with the “odds increasing 29 percent for black defendants, and 44 percent for Hispanic defendants” (King, Johnson, McGeever, 2010).
It would be foolish to assert that gender plays no role in the criminal justice system, just as it would be equally foolish to say that race plays no role in this system either. Covington and Bloom cite the work of Kivel (1992) in reminding all that "Where sexism is prevalent, one of the gender dynamics frequently found is that something declared genderless or gender neutral is, in fact, male oriented. The same phenomenon occurs in terms of race in a racist society, where the term "race neutral" generally means white" (2003). The criminal justice system reflects the needs of men and the values of men in a highly patriarchal society; the issue becomes more complicated when some scholars argue that women should fight for equal rights in all areas of life, including the criminal justice system, arguing that while equal treatment might hurt women in the short run, in the long run, it's the best policy for women (Covington & Bloom, 2003). On the other hand, opposing groups argue that women are inherently different from men and that insisting on equality will always create a situation where women lose out (Covington & Bloom, 2003). This debate creates an uncertain situation about how women should be treated in the criminal justice system and whether gender should play a role accounting for differential treatment.
It seems the longer criminals stay, again the more punitive the sentencing, the higher chance of recidivism. “Based upon the existing evidence, both crime and imprisonment can be simultaneously reduced if policy-makers reconsider their overreliance on severity based policies such as long prison sentences” (Wright, 12).There is an infinite amount of variables contributing to the rate of recidivism.Three extralegal variables are included in the analysis: age, gender, and race/ethnicity. Age, one of the most robust predictors of recidivism, is measured from the offender’s date of birth, supplied by state Department of Corrections files. Aside from the length of time and stay in prison, each criminal and criminal act is different. Younger offenders are more likely to recidivate than older offenders (Benedict, Huff-Corzine, & Corzine, 1998; Hepburn & Albonetti 1994). Male’s recidivate more than female, (BJS). Both male and female prisoners come from different communities, families, but in the male population alone the criminals are sentenced differently. African Americans (63.9 months) were given longer sentences on average, followed by Caucasian s (58.0 months) and Hispanics (52.8 months) (McGovern, 319). Since African Americans and Hispanics are given longer sentences their recidivism rate is much higher than that of Caucasian . These different variables are major flaws in the criminal justice system that needs to be taken into consideration. Additional problems when they are
The lack of diversity in the judiciary is deeply entrenched in legal culture. A profession that is intrinsically white, male, and middle class is an intimidating environment for those who fall outside this categorisation. The problem with having a single dominant group is not so much the lack of gender, ethnicity and social minorities in the judiciary but rather the lack of understanding of the various life experiences and perspectives of the diverse community the judiciary serves. An understanding that can only be acquired first hand from personal experience. While it is generally accepted that increasing diversity in judiciary will improve the overall quality of judgments there is not really any real sense of urgency to address this issue. A more diverse judiciary is seen as more of a desire than a necessity. This complacency can be partially attributed to an assumption that eventually the judiciary will balance itself but this has proven to be unsuccessful.