Investigating If the American penal system racist

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Social justice (or injustice) in the US, is a fascinating subject currently unresolved, probably getting worse rather than better and is a highly controversial theme.

By definition, racism is the belief that race is a primary determinant of human traits and capacities, and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race. Discrimination typically points out taxonomic differences between groups of people by ethnic or cultural bases independently of their somatic differences. It refers primarily to the legally or socially enforced separation of African Americans from other races. It manifests into race-based hyper segregation using prejudice, violence, discrimination or oppression of not only African Americans but of ethnic minorities from the majority mainstream society and communities. Racism, also distinguishes a race as being either superior or inferior to other racial groups.

In essence, racism was not a national dilemma until the turn of the century. The new century gave birth to hardened institutionalized racism and penal discrimination against anyone of foreign and African descent. The penal system was referred to as the "Nadir of American Race relations" and it introduced segregation, racial discrimination and expression of white supremacy.

With the migration to the North of many black workers after the emancipation of slavery at the turn of the 20th century, segregation between white and black workers became a phenomenon.

While the African American issue is huge, a formidable political social presence is also represented by Latinos who are one of the most rapidly growing minorities. Native Americans, described as "merciless Indian savages", were also persecuted and denied equality before the law. Many were relegated to reservations and re-educated to settled white American values. Their lands were disposed in a division of false land promises, exploited on a massive scale and victimized. Similar fates have been observed racially against Asians, the Irish and any foreigners after the influx of immigration in the early 1900s, including the Polish and the Italians. The anti catholic sentiment is also worth mentioning, as there were religious accusations against religious sects such as the Muslims, specifically the Nation of Islam.

African Americans represent 12.7% of the US population and are considered 15% of the US drug users, against 72% of whites. Taking these figures into mind, 36.8% of those arrested for a drug- abuse violation and 48.2% of American Adults in State of Federal prisons and local jails are colored. A massive 42.5% of prisoners under the sentence of death are also African Americans.

Latinos represent 11.1 of the US population and 10% of the US drug users. Approximately 22.5% of sentenced State prisoners convicted of a drug offense and 18.6% of American Adults in State of Federal prisons and local jails are from Latin countries.

American Indians make up less than 1% of the US population while 4% of Native Americans are under correctional supervision compared to 2% of whites. Native Americans are the victims of violent crimes at twice the rate of the general population. More than 60% of American Indian victims of violent crimes described the offender as white.

It is a fact that police are 7.5 times more likely to stop and search colored people rather than white. In the war on drugs, 62.7% of the drug offenders sent to state prison were black in comparison to 13.4% of whites. Race obviously influences the death penalty in the penal system. The death penalty is more likely to be imposed in the US for a black killing a white person than vice versa. Police ignore violence by individuals against racial minorities.

It is the claim of many that the long tradition of racism in the United States ended with the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. The legacies of slavery and segregation however, continue to affect Americans on all levels of society. African-Americans are disproportionately incarcerated by racist drug laws, denied access to the economic and educational benefits of Anglo-Americans and robbed of their civil rights and human dignity by a pervasive white supremacy, in a so-called democracy. This country's criminal justice system is directly influenced by racism. The criminal injustice system facilitates a situation in which, African-American males have a greater than 1 in 4 chance of being sent to prison (in comparison with 1 in 23 for white males). The former the violence and horror of lynching have been subsequently altered and institutionalized into a new form, initiating the racist death penalty.

In the administration of justice in any society extraordinary harm can be done to all individuals while invoking lasting consequences for future generations. Members of vulnerable groups such as racial, ethnic and other minorities often face victimization, harassment, arbitrary detention and abusive treatment because of unjust policing, criminal prosecution, sentencing or imprisonment.

Race or descent-neutral laws in practice in the US suggest that the US Penal system is racist using unfair trials, humiliating treatment, beatings and, sexual abuse. These actions can have a detrementory effect on these groups who have little recourse to legal remedies regarding abusive behaviour. Human Rights are invaded while political rights are denied to these socially vulnerable groups. Especially devastating is the application of the death penalty where more colored people are executed than

white people. This is regarded as direct discrimination abuse within the framework of the administration of justice and the underlying argument of who should live or die.

Discrimination in the enforcement of justice and its system has become a viscious circle whether social or descent based, economic, social and political. It has deepened social divisions and increased marginalization while the abusive treatments compound and confirm their subordinate status.

Racial profiling where an individual's presumed race is a determining factor for placing them under suspicion results in a mechanism of justice wherein basing their actions abstains them from the fact that there may be no clear racial involvement. This is regardless of the lawmaker's intent and a de facto denial of remedies to particular groups within the criminal justice system.

The tie between race and crime has been a study area for criminologists since the late 19th century. Reliable statistics to measure exact growth of crime among freed slaves is unavailable. However, seventy per cent of all prisoners in the South are black, the fact being based in part because the accused coloreds are readily convicted and sentenced to lengthy stays in prisons. In stark contrast whites continue to evade the penalty of many crimes on the whole.

Race crimes became a recognized field of specialized study in criminology in the late 20th century and have recently been published in an Encyclopedia of Race and Crime conducted by the Pennsylvania University. In the discussion of crime statistics and their historical leading role between race and crime in the US penal system information not only provides the reader about the crimes committed but emphasizes the individuals providing the racial demographics of crime-related-phenomena including victimization, arrest history, prosecutions, convictions and imprisonment. Facts present themselves acknowledging that some racial and ethnic minorities are indeed misrepresented proportionally wise. The problem lies in the debate regarding the cause of said misrepresentation. Victimization surveys and data used in the calculation of serious crime status such as murder , homicide and rape, going on to minor offences categorized as illegal substance use, petty theft, assault and burglary to name a few provide statistical information utilized by criminologists and sociologists in their analysis of crime and it's relationship to race.

Their findings show that African Americans, who constitute approximately 12% of the general population, were significantly overrepresented in the total arrests made. The same data concedes in victimization, murder and in non negligible homicide cases American and African American populations were overwhelmingly interracially convicted. While white Americans constitute 79% of the total population it is generally known that their arrest representation is low in comparison to Asian Americans and skyrockets to a significant overrepresentation to African Americans being actually convicted and incarcerated for non lethal crimes according to their ethnic demographics.

Multiracial Americans complain in reports of being victimized for non lethal crimes two to three times higher than white Americans. Hispanic Americans voice similar brutality reports. African Americans regularly report victimization for racially motivated hate crimes more frequently than any other race.

Racial demographics of crime suggest personal bias or prejudice as being tainted and therefore are unreliable statistics. Resultant findings in the determining factor in criminal behaviour risk public repudiation, professional exile and even suggest career death. The fear factor ensuing is the holy grail of criminology therefore it is dubbed as an unproductive mix of controversy and silence best left untouched, classed as a sociological paradigm, something defined by society. In an article By Christian Parenti dated October 2000 titled "Crimes of Punishment" published in the "Sun" newspaper there is a prime example of this unsaid factor. Mr. Parenti is a prison teacher of creative writing who denies the fact that the penal system is racist, while stating that he is not allowed to comment on subjects he is not an expert in. His interview therefore contradicts his outspoken viewpoint and cleverly incites controversy. In his behind the meaning judicial comments he cannot discuss the entire penal system. Nor can he describe it as racial but mentions that nearly all his minimum security students are white while nearly all his maximum security students were black, Hispanic, Asian, American Indian or other. He goes on pointing out that the security housing units as being windowless concrete buildings with the prisoners in solitary confinement subjected to complete isolation other than the guards for years. In another statement he voices that the pitting of prisoners against one another in order to create a lock down was common practice were an argument as insightment. Utter disrespect for human life pervades the prison system. Incidents were described as assuring no injury in the yard to the staff subsequently no injury to the staff was incurred .On the other hand nine inmates were shot and killed but the staff was unharmed so everything was said to be ok.

Another critic of the American Penal System is Bill Quigley who wrote a recent article on Rampant Racism in the Criminal Justice System.

He vehemently describes the justice system in the US as being race-based where African Americans are targeted and subsequently punished in a far more aggressive manner than whites.

He mentions that the facts are overwhelming and although undeniably politically controversial he sets out to categorize his findings.

He questions the idea that the facts themselves are probably mistakes of a somewhat successful system or contradicts this by indicating that they could simply be hard evidence that the system is working to plan. The intention being to control and marginalize the millions of African Americans.

He rationalizes his information into a fact finding list of various judicious steps, stating the use of drugs, police stopping tactics, arrest records, bail, legal representation, jury selection, trial procedures, offense sentencing, parole practice, probation and finally the freedom aspect.

He initially targets the war on drugs, mentioning that in the US there has been a massive arrest surge and incarceration over the past forty years.

He continues by providing factual evidence of the police stopping, badgering of blacks and Latinos at rates much higher than whites. Producing figures in New York City where colored people make up 50% of the population,80% of New York Police Department stops are typically of blacks and Latinos. He suggests that only 8% of whites stopped were actually bodily checked in comparison to 85% of blacks and Latinos. In other states, cities and towns the story was the same. He goes on to outrage the reader by disclosing that since 1970 drug arrests have risen to a staggering level from 320,000 to almost 1.6 million according to data available. A report from May 2009 states that African American arrest rates are 2-11 times higher than whites. He elaborates on this subject by talking about the fact that black detainees are more likely to remain incarcerated waiting due trial than whites. In arguing his case he illustrates that in a 1995 review of disparities of the system of processing felons he discovered that in some parts of New York blacks have a 33% likelihood of being detained for trial than whites facing similar crimes.

Race plays a huge role in the arrest system to validate this Mr. Quigley criticizes the fact that 80% of the offenders get a public defender as their lawyer. This provides an obvious sub standard legal defense for the defendant even if the public defender makes a heroic attempt to represent his client. Overworked and underpaid they are no match for the sophisticated prosecution in most cases. Many defendants plead guilty despite their innocence without really understanding their legal rights or the consequences.

Commenting on jury service 8 out of 10 African Americans who qualify to sit on a death penalty case are relieved of duty by prosecutors as being unsuitable.

In the American Trial System Bill Quigley points out that trials are rare, only 3-5% of criminal cases actually stand trial; the rest are plea bargained. The reason being that a longer sentence is envisaged if their case goes to trial under their constitutional right. Most African Americans wary of the outcome, knowing that it probably won't be beneficial opt for a plea bargain. A say three year sentence in jail for something you didn't commit is much better than a 25 year sentence for something they didn't commit. The golden rule seems to be plead guilty even though you are innocent! 

In a recent report dated March 2010 arising from the US Sentencing Commission it has been documented according to Mr. Quigley that in the federal system black offenders are sentenced to imprisonment 10% longer than whites for the same crime. African Americans are 21% more likely to receive mandatory minimum sentences than their fellow white defendants and ultimately have 20% more likelihood to be incarcerated that white drug offenders.

Blacks are also typically given longer sentences indicating the figures that two thirds of the people in US serving life sentences are coloreds.

Statistics are no better for the new generation of Blacks, concluding that a male born in 2001 has a 32% chance of going to jail or one in three ,while Latinos a 17% chance against a white male only 6%. That's a math of black boys being five times against a Latino boy of three times more likely to end up in jail.

He suggests that further down the generation line the African American and Latino juvenile is ill fated.

In conclusion, he reminds the reader that the US criminal justice system is from start to finish seriously racist.

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