Race is used in this country to exploit and use people's emotions to eventually control their actions. Race is something that we are born with and is assigned to us in a completely mysterious way. Somehow this quirk in life has been used to divide and conquer huge masses of people. Although slavery and racial tensions are not unique to America, it appears that these issues still reverberates throughout the discussions in this country.
The purpose of this essay is to examine how cultural diversity, and race specifically, plays a role of institutional control. This essay will examine the racial disparity between blacks, whites, and Latinos in terms of justice, law and lawmaking. This essay will give some background information on the subject before exposing some new approaches to this problem while trying to comprehend its true purpose.
Fewer than half of 1% of Americans are in state and federal prisons. That sounds like a small number. But when the U.S. prison population is examined by race, we find that the effects of the criminal justice system in the United States are unequally distributed in society. While whites make up 64% of the U.S. population, they make up 31% of the incarcerated population. In contrast, Blacks represent 14% of society but 36% of prisoners. Similarly, Hispanics represent 16% of the U.S. population, but 24% of the prison population (The Sentencing Project, 2013).
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, one in three black men can expect to go to prison in their lifetime. Individuals of color have a disproportionate number of encounters with law enforcement, indicating that racial profiling continues to be a problem. A report by the Department of Justice found that blacks and Hispanics were approximately three times more likely to be searched during a traffic stop than white motorists. African-Americans were twice as likely to be arrested and almost four times as likely to experience the use of force during encounters with the police.
While it is simple to merely call this "racist" behavior, there is something much more revealing when considering the circumstances of this development. Some may attribute this to the war on drugs. More than 60% of the people in prison are now racial and ethnic minorities. For Black males in their thirties, 1 in every 10 is in prison or jail on any given day. These trends have been intensified by the disproportionate impact of the "war on drugs," in which two-thirds of all persons in prison for drug offenses are people of color.
Racial disparity in the criminal justice system exists when the proportion of a racial or ethnic group within the control of the system is greater than the proportion of such groups in the general population. The causes of such disparity are varied and can include differing levels of criminal activity, law enforcement emphasis on particular communities, legislative policies, and/or decision making by criminal justice practitioners who exercise broad discretion in the justice process at one or more stages in the system.
Kerby (2012) agreed when she wrote "today people of color continue to be disproportionately incarcerated, policed, and sentenced to death at significantly higher rates than their white counterparts. Further, racial disparities in the criminal-justice system threaten communities of color -- disenfranchising thousands by limiting voting rights and denying equal access to employment, housing, public benefits, and education to millions more. In light of these disparities, it is imperative that criminal-justice reform evolves as the civil rights issue of the 21st century."
Maurer (2010) profoundly suggested that justice cannot be attained in this manner. He wrote " despite changes in leadership and growing attention to issues of racial and ethnic disparity in recent years, these disparities in criminal justice decision making still persist at every level of the criminal justice system. This does not necessarily suggest that these outcomes represent conscious efforts to discriminate, but they nonetheless contribute to excessive rates of imprisonment for some groups." Racial disparity challenges the basic values upon which the criminal justice system rests. To the extent that such disparity is a result of racism (that is, discrimination based on race), it represents an outright rejection of the principle of equal justice.
A commitment to values of justice, fairness and public safety compels professionals to vigorously address disparate treatment when and where it exists. A sense that the criminal justice system is fair is essential to the functioning of a democratic society.
Issues to Consider
Issues of both race and class have an impact on the likelihood of involvement with the criminal justice system and treatment within the system. For instance, low-income individuals are generally overrepresented at every stage of the criminal justice system, and it is widely acknowledged that people of color are disproportionately low-income. It is therefore possible that race is not necessary the cause of this disparity but more of a result of other issues.
Wealth and resources play important roles in how people are treated within the legal system. Those who can afford great legal defense usually escape on serious charges, such as OJ Simpson, while others find themselves hopelessly defending themselves in the criminal system with poor lawyers with little incentive to help their client. The disparity in legal defense should also be considered when looking at this problem in a general and unbiased manner.
In America, it has now become profitable for those entrepreneurs wishing to invest in the prison business. The states have given up this control to corporate entities that care only about the color green of money and not social equality. The ACLU (2013) stated "Private prison companies, however, essentially admit that their business model depends on locking up more and more people. For example, in a 2010 Annual Report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) stated: "The demand for our facilities and services could be adversely affected by . . . leniency in conviction or parole standards and sentencing practices." As incarceration rates skyrocket, the private prison industry expands at exponential rates, holding ever more people in its prisons and jails, and generating massive profits. Perhaps there is something more than racism at work here with even more sinister and devious intentions. And while supporters of private prisons tout the idea that governments can save money through privatization, the evidence that private prisons save taxpayer money is mixed at best -- in fact, private prisons may in some instances cost more than governmental ones. Private prisons have also been linked to numerous cases of violence and atrocious conditions.
The problem appears to start at the top. Black congressional leaders are almost always targeted for ethics violations. Goldmacher (2012) wrote " African-Americans make up 10% of the House, but as of the end of February, five of the sitting six named lawmakers under review by the House Ethics Committee are black. All told, about one-third of sitting black lawmakers have been named in an ethics probe during their careers, according to a National Journal review." Congress itself is no beacon of ethical and moral behavior so it is perhaps unwise to look in that direction for any real solutions. After all, the prison lobby will do all they can to ensure that sentencing laws produce the best results for profits.
Another aspect commonly overlooked in this discussion is the desire for young people to in fact do prison time. When in jail a certain amount of "street credibility " is earned in many circles. It should not be discounted that there are a lot of people who truly desire to be in prison for these and other reasons. For some, prison is an escape from other pressures in life where three meals are served with a shower and a bed.
Many of our culture's role models of been incarcerated as well. The entire Jewish population in the Old Testament, Jesus Christ in the New Testament, Martin Luther King, Mohandas Gandhi and many other "rebels with a cause" have been imprisoned for the good for society. Brooks (2011) agreed. He suggested that "Martyrdom is the ultimate act of active nonviolent protest which has as its aim social transformation. Committing oneself to death or prison on the premise of principled conviction and uncompromising faith is the most powerful response one can offer in the face of cowardice and hegemony that manifests itself as bigotry, oppression, and other forms of systematic human degradation. While death is a fundamental component of martyrdom, the essence of what it means to be a martyr extends beyond simply relinquishing one's life in the face of danger or adversity."
Inequality Does not Seem to Be The Problem
Diversity is often overlooked as a benefit. It appears the need to quickly label and document ideas with no real purpose has left a society full of confused people who are being told to always join the crowd and do as your masters say. In reality, inequality is the basis of nature and natural processes. When…
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