Is There a Relationship Between Race and Arrest Rates  Only the Literature Review chapter

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Arrest Rates Against Race

Is there a relationship between race and arrest rates?

Is there a relationship between race and arrests Rates?

For over a century, the disproportionate arrests and conviction rates continues to raise controversial debates within the western nations. The prevalence of higher black arrests than the whites has been raising controversial concerns about the question on whether the criminal justice systems have been getting biased towards the minority groups. A considerable attention thereby centers around two indispensable questions: (i) Does the disproportionate number of black arrests arise from their own discretionary informal or formal organizational activities? And (ii) Does the higher prevalence of the black arrests compared to the whites, directly rely on their involvement in serious criminal activities and/or conducts? Currently, several studies on criminal justice focus on the examination of various social explanations pertaining to the disproportionate rates of arrest by race. These studies primarily focus on the varying levels of analyses from the structural elucidations about the institutionalized racism, as well as the variance poverty outcomes, both micro and macro-level analyses on the prescribed cultural behaviors. A number of scholarly authored documents have made conflicting conclusions that the differing rates of arrests could either result from the "fact" that black individuals commit greater amount of crimes than the whites or due to racial biases in the methods of policing. This paper will focus on such relationships between the arrest rates and race, as well as the factors which could be responsible for this situation, and the related problems.

In the United States, the relationship between crime and race has been one of the public's controversial topics, and a controversial scholarly debate hitting annual headlines for more than a century. Since the beginning of 1980s, these debates center on the causes and effectual factors for the disproportionate representation of the minority races (primarily the Black Americans), resulting to the "Black Crime" within all levels of criminal justice systems, encompassing the arrest rates, prosecution, and incarcerations (Butler, 2010). The minority offenders face charges and convictions against violent crimes, with a minimum of mandatory prison sentence; hence the hefty racial discrepancies in incarcerations. Most of the provocative explanations for this situation derive from the theories of social organizations, especially those that emphasize on the consensus and conflict. These bring an interesting argument since they postulate some of the contradictory judicial outcomes relating to the social order and individual behaviors.

Literature Review

Discretionary Justice and Racial Bias

The conflict and consensus perspectives encompass macro-level implications regarding the solicitation of social controls by the legal systems. The consensus perspective contends that there is a possibility of social order within a democratic society; since any neutral state should operate to defend itself from threatening behaviors. Based on the near universally recognized values, the state's principal concern is to encourage moral beliefs through sanctioning of behaviors which infringe criminal laws. Consequently, the police have an obligation to arrest only the individuals suspected of the actual involvement in a criminal act that violates the criminal laws. Moreover, the acts that threaten and/or endanger the values of criminal justice systems, incapacitate, eliminate or harm the functioning societal systems must equally be sanctioned.

The conflict perspective of the other hand, assumes that the maintenance of the social order is solely achievable through any value laden state, which functions to benefit the ruling class at the expense of minorities and/or the subordinates. For the maintenance of their privileged status, as well as resource ownership and power access, rulers align themselves to the use of repressive social control against the subordinates and/or minorities. Presumably, leaders of the ruling class coerce and constrain the subordinates since they presume the subordinates to be threatening, both in their imaginary and real struggle to achieve economic success, resource ownership, social status, and political power as the ruling class (Becker, 1968). Furthermore, the law enforcement agencies may exercise a discretionary justice against the minority groups since their presence heightens the rulers' perceptions for fear and threats of criminal activities. As a result, the relationships between the minorities and legal agents (say police officers) may be oppressive since the dispositions of the police will tend to favor the interest of the ruling class. Thus, the decisions made by the police to arrest an individual from the minority groups are likely to be independent of the actual individuals' conducts while being more dependent upon the status of subordinate groups (Blumstein, 1982). This leads to discriminations upon the characteristics of a given group.

Alternatively, many authors reach controversial conclusions, for instance, Walker (1987) elicits that the police frequently stop the young black males within the streets of London thrice as much often as the young white males while driving or walking. This high probability of the Blacks' stoppage would at least, partially explain the aspect of the black-arrests' over-representation relative to their population (Bowles & Pradiptyo, 2005). Nonetheless, the author of this information at least affirms this stand by giving a few possible explanations to support this existence of racial bias. First is that the police are more likely to stop the individuals who are unemployed than the employed ones, and coincidentally, the blacks have higher unemployment rates than any other race. As well, almost half of the police stops do occur during the night hour, so maybe the black youths are much likely to be out on the streets during these hours as compared to the white youths, and this is due to the effect of their high unemployment rates. To add more onto this, Blumstein (1982) finds out an evidence for racial bias through his cross examinations of the drug offenses' incarcerations. This author finds that approximately three quarters of drug related incarcerations are of the Latinos and blacks despite the fact that these ethnicities use drugs at an equal rate as the whites.

Racial Disparities

If not all, then most of the Americans commonly suspect that the Hispanics and the Black Americans are more likely to commit an offence or a crime when compared to the whites or Asians (Blumstein, 1982). Nevertheless, criminal statistics reported and published by the federal justice systems, as well as the press, are often incomplete to confirm this assertion leading to a regular and consistent confusion. It, thereby, holds a great effort to obtain the actual picture of the wide racial disparities against criminal activities and arrest rates. One of the greatest obstacles against understanding the correlation between crime and race is the failure of lots of national crime statistics to differentiate between the whites and Hispanics. The UCR (Uniform Crime Reporting Program), which is the FBI's foundation of the national tabulation of arrests, involves many Hispanics within the whites category. Similarly, the NCVS (National Crime Victimization Survey), a far-reaching annual survey on criminal offenders, categorizes some Hispanic criminal offenders among the whites while grouping others in other races. Since criminal investigative results frequently reveal that the Hispanic groups commit crimes at higher rates when compared to the non-Hispanic whites, the combination of these two groups into one category may distort the crime data and arrest rates. In this proposal, white will refer to the non-Black and non-Hispanic whites while the Hispanic will refer to the individuals whose origins are from the Spanish-speaking nations. According to Shah and Pease (1992), Hispanics can be from any race; however, in the United States, the majority groups comes from the mixed European and American-Indian ancestry, with their roots from the Latin America.

Walker (1987) created a model that explains the changes between racial compositions and arrest rates in relation to the ratio of white to black people and how it varies from one state to another. In accordance with the socioeconomic data on arrest rates and race within the state levels, this model can be useful in the estimation of probability differences for black individuals' arrests compared to the arrest rates for the white individuals. The probabilities are useful in the determination of the frequency differences on how the whites and blacks commit crime, and the probability of arrest when involving in criminal activities all the racial groups. Provisionally, an average estimation elicits that the black and Hispanic groups commit four or three times as many crimes as the whites. Likewise, the probability of arrest for black and Hispanic offenders is three times as much as it is for the white offenders hence racial bias in methods of policing.

There are two possible explanations tor the above proposed situations; the high disparities in the rates of incarceration. First, it obviously brings a close understanding that the Hispanics and Black Americans commit high number of crimes than the whites, leading to their amplified rates of incarceration. A second explanation is that there exists racial bias somewhere within the process of incarceration-either within the judicial systems or the entire police methods (Bowles & Pradiptyo, 2005). Nonetheless, these explanations are not exclusive since it is possible that the Hispanic and Black commit higher number of crimes than the whites, yet there also…

Sources Used in Document:


Becker, G.S. (1968). Crime and punishment: An economic approach. Journal of Political

Economy,76(7), 172-216.

Blumstein, A. (1982). Racial Disproportionality of the United States' prison populations.

Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology,73(2) 159-181.

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