The American Justice or Injustice System

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Large number of color inmates in our prisons have been seen for decades back. Not too many researchers took the stand to address this matter and bring it to light. luckily, there were a few that committed themselves to finding out why the number of non-whites offenders is so high in the cells of our prisons. In this brief paper I will discuss and evaluate their stand points on this issue. While scores of blacks and Latinos are being imprisoned for minor drug offences every day, more take their place. We can't deal with this problem by avoiding it by placing more people in jail. Our criminal justice policy makers should concentrate more on programs of treatment for these offenders rather than increase the sentences for drug related, non violent crimes.

The article " Drug Use, Drug Possession Arrests, and the Question of Race" written by Katherine Beckett, Kris Nyrop, Lori Pfingst and Melissa Bowen stress and reveals several interesting point closely related to drug use, possession and rates of incarceration that follow these offenses. The authors closely evaluate socio economic factors like uneven impact of deindustrialization, poverty and unemployment among people of color in large urban areas as well as frustration from inability to achieve success through legal means and argue that these aspect hugely contribute to higher drug related arrest among blacks and Latinos. However, the article also approaches the issue from completely different stand point and claims that, "law-makers and law enforcers direct, overt racist motives are also responsible for racial disparities in drug arrests"(Pg 3) The drug policies, law enforcement practices, as the authors believe may be influenced by racial coding of drugs and racial profiling of potential drug users. It is very common for crack cocaine users, usually portrayed as blacks and Latinos to be treated much more harshly than powder cocaine users, usually portrayed as whites, even though the drug they abuse is mainly made out of the same ingredient-cocaine. Although the research on the subject was conducted mainly in Seattle, the authors argue that connection between drug arrests and the disparity between the rate of imprisonment in terms of race for these offences is similar in most of large, American metropolises. The data for the research was taken from several unique sources like Seattle Needle Exchange Survey, Public Drug Treatment Admission Data, Ethnographic Observations and Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring (ADAM) Program . Does strong presence of Police forces in color neighborhoods and race-based police profiling play a key role in the number of color people being arrested much more often? The authors of the next article I will present argue that indeed, it is the case.

Blacks and whites often identify American social institutions in plainly diverse terms, and views of criminal justice are no exception. Certainly, race is one of the most salient forecasters of attitudes toward the police and other criminal justice institutions. Blacks and Latinos are more likely than whites to utter displeasure with various aspects of policing. "Race and Perception of Police Misconduct" written by Ronald Weitzer and Steven A. Tuch examines insights of police misbehavior in the United States and the factors that influence these perceptions. Using data from a large, nationally representative survey of whites, African Americans, and Hispanics, the authors study how citizens' views of four types of police misconduct: verbal abuse, excessive force, unwarranted stops, and corruption are formed by race and other factors, including personal and explicit experiences with police officers, acknowledgment to mass media coverage of police behavior, and neighborhood conditions. outcomes demonstrate that race remains a key factor in arranging attitudes toward police delinquency even after controlling for these other variables. Race is a strong prognosticator in large part because blacks and Latinos are more likely than whites to address having negative contacts with police. To be exposed to media reports of police misconduct, and to live in high-crime neighborhoods where policing may be controversial each of which increases perceptions of police misconduct. The findings are steady with the "group-position" model of race relations which represent the view of "prejudice as rooted in a collective "sense of group position," and group interest is the driving force underlying contentious intergroup relations. Dominant group interests are predicated on members' beliefs that they have proprietary claims to scarce resources, any challenge to which is viewed as a threat to the racial status quo and may be resisted."( Weitzer & Tuch. 2004) The authors create their research by studying US citizens' experiences with police , examining mass media reports on misconduct as well as evaluating crime and policing in variety of urban and rural neighborhoods. Data for this study comes mainly from national survey that was conducted between "October and Decem-ber, 2002 of 1,792 white, Hispanic, and African American residents of metropolitan areas with populations of at least 100,000" (Weitzer & Tuch. 2004)

While the article described above deals solemnly with the issue of race and its influence on law enforcement, social institution like Police Departments, the "Prosecuting Adolescents in Criminal Courts: Criminal or Juvenile Justice?" article written by Aaron Kupchik touches upon the procedures that follow police arrests-court cases. Increasingly, juvenile defendants charged with more serious offences(also those drug related are transferred to criminal courts. This presents conflict for court actors dealing with adolescent defendants in adult courts. incongruity between adolescent’s immaturity and formal environment as well as formality of court proceedings causes tensions for decision makers. Do criminal courts prosecuting adolescents apply offense-based and punishment-focused model? Or do they reintroduce individualized evaluative criteria and rehabilitative sentencing goals? Well the answer is that both approaches are used by courts throughout the nation which creates unfair case preceding conditions for adolescent offenders depending in which state they committed the crime. Kupchik compares different models of justice that are used by our courts and argues that none of them are competent enough. He proposes new model of justice that should be used in courts when dealing with adolescent offenders which he calls a "mixed" model, where adolescents are held accountable as adults in criminal courts but within specialized court parts where many receive discounted sentences if convicted. Kupchik is right in his point. We cannot treat adolescents criminals as adults. There is many outside factors like difficult family situation or violence that these children experience every day. These conditions could greatly influence their behavior and therefore they should be taken into serious consideration, also by courts.

The unfairness of court procedures in dealing with adolescent offenders is often seen as normal or even appropriate by general public. People do not want to see a sixteen year old, African American crack user or dealer as a lost child that was neglected by most of the society and deserves treatment options but rather as cruel criminal that should be placed in jail. This image of colored drug offender that is so different from the image of "white kid went wrong" is created mostly by our mass media. In article " Where You Live and What You Watch: The Impact of Racial Proximity and Local Television News on Attitudes about Race and Crime" written by Franklin D. Gilliam Jr., Nicholas A. Valentino, Matthew N. Backmann investigate the interaction of exposure to stereotype reinforcing local crime news and neighborhood racial context on attitudes about race and crime. According to the study conducted by above mentioned researchers, " Crime news reporting contains two central elements-crime is violent, and criminal perpetrators are nonwhite". In American media, whites are typically portrayed as victims of violent crime and people of color were typically described as the executors of violence. Thus the issue of crime, like other issues such as welfare and drug use, has become "race-coded". It is a statistical fact that colored people commit more crimes than whites, and the data for that is backed up by many surveys. It doesn't mean however that whites do not commit drug related or violent crimes. I believe that the racial image of various types of offenders that our media are constantly supporting has tremendous effect on our law enforcement agents, judges and prosecutors. We have to be aware of the fact that whites can also be violent, they may also be drug dealers and robbers. I believe that government officials should take a stand in this matter by placing people of color in brighter light. Many of them often volunteer, help other students in school and fight for their communities.

The last article that deals with the topics of race, drug use and arrest is written by Richard Banks. It is called " Beyond Profiling: Race, Policing, and the Drug War" Although it deals with similar issues as other articles I have described in this paper, the article deals mostly with the subject of racial profiling and its dreadful consequences. "Racial profiling occurs when a law enforcement officer decides to investigate an individual at least partly based on the belief that members of that individual's racial group are more likely than members of other racial groups to engage in the specific criminal activity"(Richard Banks 2003). The author believes that there are many good reasons which prove that racial profiling that is often enforced and practiced in many police departments throughout the nation is simply a waste of time and efforts of law enforcement agents, " If officers engage in racial profiling because it helps them to apprehend drug traffickers, then efforts to eliminate the practice without reducing the incentives to apprehend drug traffickers may be futile or counterproductive"( Richard Banks, 2003) Moreover, I believe that the problems most commonly associated with racial profiling like the widespread investigation and mistreatment of racial minorities and the tension between racial minority communities and law enforcement agencies do not necessarily turn on whether officers engage in racial profiling. These problems could persevere in the nonexistence of racial profiling or be considerably addressed without actually eliminating it. Analysis on this matter should instead consider the race related outcomes of the war on drugs, high level of incarceration of racial minorities in particular. These outcomes( increasing racial divide, lowering neighborhoods' social stability to mention a few) may bring much more devastation and harm to our society that putting every Latino or black drug offender to prison for years.

Although our prisons are constantly being filled up with more and more non violent, young, drug offenders, making billions of dollars that comes from our tax money to be transferred in order to support our prison system, there is hope for change. I strongly believe that the articles that I have reviewed and interpreted in this paper will open eyes to many skeptics that still believe that the best way to deal with the problem of drugs and drug related arrests in America is to lock up as many drug offenders as needed for the society to stay quiet as this problem had never existed.


- Richard Banks, R. (2003). Beyond profiling: race, policing, and the drug war . Stanford Law Review , 56(3), 571-603

(Richard Banks, 2003)

Gilliam, D, Valentino, A, & Beckmann, N. (2002). Where you live and what you watch: the impact of racial proximity and local television news on attitudes about race and crime . Political Research Quarterly, 55(4), 755-780.

(Gilliam, Valentino, & Beckmann, 2002)

Weitzer, Initials, & Tuch, A. (2004). Race and perceptions of police misconduct . University of California Press , 51(3), 305-325.

(Weitzer, & Tuch, 2004)

Nyrop, Bowen, Beckett, & Pfingst, Initials. (2005). • drug use, drug possession arrests, and the question of race: lessons from Seattle. University of California Press, 52(3), 419-441.

(Nyrop, Bowen, Beckett, & Pfingst, 2005)

Kupchik, Initials. (2003). Prosecuting adolescents in criminal courts: criminal or juvenile justice? . University of California , 50(3), 439-460.

(Kupchik, 2003)