Although the criminal justice system improved over the years, racial disparity and discrimination contributes to the overrepresentation of minorities in prison. Currently, the United States is one of the most racially and ethnically diverse nations (Scully, 2000). However, Caucasian is still the predominant race in American society, and statistics show judges sentence minorities to prison more than Caucasians, who committed the same crime.
Clearly, studies reveal race is still an influential component in this country’s criminal justice system. Consequently, racial disparity is highly apparent in sentencing (Scully, 2000). Racial Disparity and its Contributors Racial disparity reveals the differences between groups represented in society (Rivera, 2010). “Racial disparity in the criminal justice system occurs 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” (Sentencing Project, 2000, p. 1).
In a sense, racial disparity identifies the differences of one person from everyone else. Therefore, disparity considers all variables that help classify individuals in categories (Karen, 2010). Four reasons exist and cause racial disparity to prosper in the criminal justice system. The contributors are venue and jury selection, ineffective assistance of counsel and procedural bars, prosecutorial discretion, and the dominance of racist jurors (Misha, 2005). As for prosecutorial discretion, a Caucasian who committed a white-collar crime will not spend a day in jail, whereas a minority offender who committed a street crime will suffer harsh enalties. Ineffective assistance of counsel obviously shows that the defense attorney failed to represent the defendant vigorously. Jury selection and venue are vital because the location of trial is significant and the selection of jurors is vital. However, prosecutors and defense attorneys question potential jurors in the presence of others who cause them to give politically correct answers rather than answering truthfully (Misha, 2005). Consequently, bias or prejudice people become jurors. Last, the belief racial juries contribute to the occurrence of racial disparity is self-explanatory.
For example, if the defendant is African American and every juror is white, of course, racial disparity is palpable (Misha, 2005). Racial Disparity in Sentencing According to the Sentencing Project (2005), evidence shows that direct forms of discrimination toward minority offenders are prevalent. Research revealed that during the sentencing phase, minority offenders are at a disadvantage when facing state and federal judges. Judges sentence young African Americans along with Latino offenders to more severe punishments when compared to established Caucasian males.
Furthermore, Black defendants go to jail more than white offenders during pretrial stages and pay higher trial penalties. As for White offenders, they receive more lenient sentences when compared to minorities. Additionally, minority offenders are not able to bail out jail before trial as the courts somewhat enable Caucasian offenders to bail out (Sentencing Project, 2005). Another factor identifying the prevalence of racial disparity in sentencing is the fact White offenders retain private attorneys whereas minority offenders cannot afford to hire attorneys and rely on underpaid public defenders.
Research shows that when Black males victimize Whites, they receive harsher sentences than they would if they had victimized another Black person. Moreover, Black offenders acquire harsher sentences for low-level drug offenses, whereas a Caucasian, low-level drug offender is awarded significant leniency (Sentencing Project, 2005). Examples and Statistics of Racial Disparity in Sentencing Certainly, racial disparity in sentencing is a profound hindrance to the criminal justice system. According to Misha (2005), judges sentence one out f every eight African American males to incarceration in state and federal prisons. African Americans make up 42% of the prison population even though the total black population is 12% (Camacho, 2008). Statistics show that if the trend continues, approximately 32% of black males will serve time in jail, whereas approximately eight percent of Caucasians may go to jail (Misha, 2005). Statistics Analyzing and the Death Penalty Many critics of capital punishment believe the abolishment of the death penalty is necessary because the justice system fails to administer the penalty with racial fairness.
Clearly, the execution of minority offenders is higher than the execution of Caucasians (Scott, 2009). However, the imposition of the death penalty is a rare occasion and this fact shows that the criminal justice system is racially motivated to sentencing minorities harshly (McAdams, 1998). “Numerous researchers have shown conclusively that African American defendants are far more likely to receive the death penalty than are white defendants charged with the same crime (McAdams, 1998, p. 1). Reducing Racial Disparity in the Criminal Justice System
Previously, the primary contributors to racial disparity in the criminal justice system were identified. After examining the impact of each of the contributors, this author has recommendations to reduce the prevalence of racial disparity. Every member of the criminal justice system should undergo extensive diversity training to learn the distinctions between everyone and how to accept the differences. Police departments should establish thoughtful policing strategies with intent to promote police-citizen interaction (King, Johnson, & McGreever, 2010).
During the pre-trial process, a judge should determine if racial bias exists and if prejudice is evident the judge must assess the risks thoroughly. All prosecutors must assist district attorneys in an effort to monitor and protect against discrimination in a prosecutor’s decision-making process. Furthermore, prosecutors should thoroughly interview potential jurors to identify anyone who may have discriminative bias (Sentencing Project, n. d. ). Defense attorneys must protect their clients from racial bias and attempt to reduce its existence in policing strategies. The judicial system should mplement a review process to determine whether or not a defendant is a victim of racial disparity or not. If the defendant is a victim of racial disparity, the court should implement corrective measures to ensure a fair trial or adjudication (Sentencing Project, 2000). Undoubtedly, if the justice system wants to reduce racial disparity, criminal justice professionals must pay close attention to the details of a person’s arrest, how the prosecutor chose to pursue the case, the defendant’s representation, the extent of the pre-sentence investigation, and sentencing alternatives (Sentencing Project, 2005).
The criminal justice process and its relationship to racial disparity plagued the system’s effectiveness since the slavery days. Currently, the criminal justice system is more diverse than ever before; however, race is still an influential factor in the system’s decision-making process. Many argue racial disparity is prevalent on all levels of the criminal justice system and even more evident when courts sentence minority offenders. Therefore, sentencing is one phase of the criminal justice system that reflects on decisions court officials and police made in earlier stages of the criminal process (Sentencing Project, 2005).
Many silently question if race has an impact on criminal justice. Boldly, race has proven to be a prominent motivator within the criminal process. Depending on a person’s circumstance and race, the outcome may either be to his or her advantage or disadvantage. However, if one is a minority, particularly African American, statistics show judges and juries sentence a black person to a harsher sentence than if the offender were white. Consequently, racial disparity is rampant in America’s criminal justice system.
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