Disparity and Discrimination the History of Criminal Term Paper

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Disparity and Discrimination

The history of criminal justice and race.

The racial makeup of the criminal justice system.

The misunderstanding between discrimination and disparity.

How disparity and discrimination are addressed in the criminal justice system.

The difference between discrimination and disparity.

scholarly articles - each addressing an aspect of criminal justice.

How race and disparity are seen in the criminal justice system.

How race and discrimination are seen in the criminal justice system.

The treatment of criminals regardless of race.

An examination of the information collected from the articles.

Information regarding what the information means to the criminal justice system.


How to help the criminal justice system deal with race appropriately.

How discrimination can be avoided in favor of naturally-occurring disparity.


The future of discrimination and disparity in the criminal justice system.

What can be done to improve race relations when it comes to criminal justice.

Reference List

Binswanger, I.A., Redmond, N., Steiner, J.F., & Hicks, L.S. 2011. Health disparities and the criminal justice system: An agenda for further research and action. Journal of Urban Health: Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine, 1-10.

Crutchfield, R.D., Skinner, M.L., Haggerty, K.P., McGlynn, A., & Catalano, R.F. 2009. Racial disparities in early criminal justice involvement. Race and Social Problems, 1(4): 218-230.

Davis, A.J. 2008. Racial fairness in the criminal justice system: The role of the prosecutor. 39 Columbia Journal of Human Rights Law Review 202: 202-230.

Garland, B.E., Spohn, C., & Wodahl, E.J. 2008. Racial disproportionality in the American prison population: Using the Blumstein Method to address the critical race and justice issues of the 21st century. Justice Policy Journal, 5(2). 1-42. Retrieved from http://www.cjcj.org/files/racial_disproportionality.pdf

Hurwitz, J. & Peffley, M. 2010. And justice for some: Race, crime, and punishment in the U.S. criminal justice system. Canadian Journal of Political Science, 43: 457-479.





Statement of the Problem

Literature Review






Ever since the beginnings of the criminal justice system, race has been a concern. There are more blacks than whites who are incarcerated in the present day, and this is a trend that has been ongoing since the first prisons housed the first inmates. But, why is this the case? Is it that black individuals commit more crimes, or is it that they are treated unfairly by the justice system? Many people believe it is due to discrimination, but these same people often fail to understand the proper use of the word. In order to determine whether discrimination is occurring or whether there is simply racial disparity in the criminal justice system, recent literature regarding the issue must be explored. From an examination of the data that surrounds race as it pertains to criminal justice, it is possible to determine whether discrimination, disparity, or both are taking place in the prisons and courtrooms of today. This will provide a more accurate picture of how racial issues have been addressed throughout the United States and into the modern day.

Many arguments are made that black people do not commit an appropriate number of crimes for the number of them that are incarcerated. Instead, it is argued that they are targeted unfairly by police and the criminal justice system, and are not given the same kind of treatment as white individuals once they are arrested (or during the time of arrest, such as at a traffic stop). Of course, there is an argument on the other side of the coin, as well, that states that black individuals are much more likely to commit crimes, and that is why there are more of them in the prison system. If they are more likely to commit crimes, what are the reasons behind that criminal activity? Do poverty and other issues play a role? This all has to be studied, because some researchers show different findings than other researchers. That would indicate that there are likely many factors at work.

Statement of the Problem

According to research into the issue of race and criminal justice, there is a disparity between how many blacks are in the criminal justice system and how many whites are seen there. Because of that, many people claim that the criminal justice system is discriminatory. However, that is likely due to a misunderstanding about what discrimination actually is and whether the term is used correctly. Discrimination means that a person or group is taking a characteristic (such as race) and attaching something (such as criminal activity) to the entire group that has that characteristic. That group may find its members misjudged, "lumped in" together, treated poorly, denied opportunities, or assumed to be problematic, even when many of that group's members are not doing anything wrong. For example, arresting a black man for a traffic stop for which a white man would have walked free would be discrimination, all other things being equal.

The issue here, however, is whether there is actual discrimination in the criminal justice system or whether there is a discrepancy. A discrepancy is not discriminatory, it is simply something that occurs naturally. If more black people than white people actually do commit crimes for which they are caught and punished, there will be a seemingly disproportionate number of black individuals in the criminal justice system, even though they do not make up a majority of the people who are outside of the criminal justice system. This is the issue that must be studied. Discrepancies are perfectly acceptable as a naturally-occurring part of society. Discrimination is a choice that individuals make, and something that has no place in the justice system or anywhere else. Allegedly, there is no more discrimination because it is not supposed to be legal to discriminate, but it is still something that takes place in many areas of life, and that difference between discrimination and disparity is what will be addressed here.

Literature Review

One of the most important individuals in the criminal justice system when it comes to discrimination is the prosecutor (Davis, 2008). Many prosecutors know that they cannot deliberately play on the fact that an alleged criminal is part of a group based on race, but they will find ways in which they can work in information that would otherwise not be used - and that relates in some way to the race of the person that they are prosecuting. Racial disparities are rampant in the criminal justice system, but how much of that is expected because of the number of minorities that commit crimes and how much of it is caused by discrimination? According to Davis (2008), the criminal justice system is "plagued" with disparity that should not be occurring because prosecutors and others are more focused on putting someone behind bars for the crime than they are on ensuring that they have located the correct person who is actually guilty of that crime.

This is a sentiment that is echoed by other researchers who have found the same kinds of issues in their own studies. It is true that anyone who is part of an ethnic or racial minority within the United States today is more likely to have some involvement with the criminal justice system than someone who belongs to the white majority, there are many gaps in the understanding of that issue (Biswanger, et al., 2011). Critical issues that are part of the science behind criminality and the racial and ethnic disparities in that criminality still exist (Biswanger, et al., 2011). Because there are many gaps that need to be addressed, there can be some confusion when it comes to how minorities are actually perceived by those who work in criminal justice - and how those minorities are treated.

Thus, the argument regarding disparity or discrimination continues to grow and develop. It changes, but it is always the same in many ways. What one person sees as discrimination may be seen as a disparity by another person, and the "facts" are always open to the interpretation of researchers. People who are involved with the criminal justice system are often at risk for poor outcomes in their health (Binswanger, et al., 2011). They can also struggle with job prospects, securing a home that is safe and livable, and other aspects that are related to their finances. This is true no matter what the race or ethnicity of the person, but it appears to be more pronounced in individuals who are part of a minority group. The effects that are seen on the finances, health, health care, and happiness of these people cannot be underestimated or ignored, because there are very serious.

When people are not given proper health care, they not only end up sick more often, but their illnesses are often more significant than they would be if they had received proper care and treatment. In the criminal justice system, minorities often do not get the care that they need and want (Binswanger, et al., 2011). They…

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