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Racial Disparity in Criminal Justice System Essay

Twenty-five percent of the world’s prison population, 2.5 million people, are held in American penal institutions. (ACLU, 2008). Sixty percent of those incarcerated are racial and ethnic minorities. These figures mean that 2.3% of all African Americans are incarcerated. The percentage of whites admitted to prison is 0.4% of whites and Hispanics, 0.7%. (Associated Press, 2007; Bonczar, 2003; Mauer & King, 2007; ACLU, 2008; Bridges & Sheen, 1998;). One of the primary contributors to this gross disproportion of incarceration of blacks is the result of “the war on drugs” and “tough on crime” initiatives that were established in the 80’s. The aggressive law enforcement strategies of The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, disproportionately arrested, convicted, and incarcerated millions of blacks for relatively minor nonviolent drug offenses as compared to white offenders.

The dramatic escalation of incarceration for drug offenses was accompanied by profound racial disparities. Blacks were incarcerated at a grossly disproportionate rate to white Americans and blacks received much harsher and longer sentences, 14.5% longer, creating racial disparity within the criminal justice system (Alexander, 2010; Austin, et al.; Georges-Abeyie, 2006; González & Chang, 2011; Lynch & William, 1997; Mauer, 2007; Mauer & King, 2007; Spohn, 2000 (Alexander, 2010, Associated Press, 2007, Mauer M. 2009; Mauer M., 2008; Spohn, 2000) Mass incarceration functions more like a caste system than a system of crime prevention serves the same purpose as pre-Civil War slavery and the post-Civil War Jim Crow laws: to maintain a racial caste system: a system designed to keep a racial group locked into an inferior position by law and customs. (Alexander, 2010)

While scholars have long analyzed the connection between race and America’s criminal justice system, argue that our growing penal system, with its black tinge, constitutes nothing less than a new form of Jim Crow. There are writers that feel the analogy’s myopic focus on the War on Drugs diverts us from discussing violent crime—an oversight when discussing mass interaction in the United States. (James Forman) There is no dispute as to the extent of the escalation in criminalization and incarceration in the United States in the 40-year war on drugs. That violent offenders make up a plurality of the prison population, but research has shown that the unequal enforcement of mandatory policies in place, black males received longer terms than whites for similar drug offenses, 14.5% longer, this creates the level of mass incarceration that racial disparity within the criminal justice system. ). Look at states in there Midwest and northeast have the greatest black-to-white disparity in incarceration.

So when states as Iowa, the 10th safest state in the US, 91.3% of the population is White (88.7% non-Hispanic),and 2.9% is Black or African American, how is it for every 100,000 people Iowa incarcerates 309 white and 4200 are black, imprisoning black at 13 times the rate of whites. The unequal enforcement of mandatory policies in place, black males received longer terms than whites for similar drug offenses, 14.5% longer, this creates the level of mass incarceration that racial disparity within the criminal justice system. Supporting data shows the extraordinary increases in several states of nonwhite drug offenders committed to prison receiving harsher sentences for similar drug offences. (Alexander, 2010; Tonry, 1994 (ACLU, 2008; Alexander, 2010; Green, 2012Lacey, 2010; Bonczar, 2003; Glaze & Herberman, 2010; Mauer, 2009; Mauer, 2008; M Mauer and King (2007);Russell-Brown, 2008; Mauer & King 2007; The Institute for Economics and Peace, 2012; Petersilia,1983; Loury, 2010; Russell-Brown, 2008).

There have been studies in theoretical foundation and methodological sophistication to assess the disproportionality in incarceration of racial minorities. Research has dispelled the assertion that blacks are disproportionality sentenced and incarcerated due solely to differential crime commission rates. All actors within the criminal justice system are under the delusion, or pretense, of objectivity in the criminal justice system. (Spohn, 2000; Russell-Brown, 2008) In response to this gap in literature, the current study will focus exclusively on the consistent patterns indicating that offender race operates directly through other factors, arresting officer, prior record, type of crime, pretrial status or type of disposition, or interacts with other variables that are themselves related to racial disparity. I will also attempt to determine why these disproportionalities exist by examining the criminal justice system policies and practices that have contributed in recent decades to the disproportionate overrepresentation of minorities in the criminal justice system.

Literature Review
Criminologist and social-political geographer Daniel E. Georges-Abeyie introduced the concept and theory of petit apartheid in criminal justice and juvenile justice in 1990 to describe discriminatory, discretionary acts by law enforcement, correctional officers, and jurists that advantage or disadvantage an individual, or individuals, on grounds of their identity characteristics, such as race, ethnicity, gender, sex, sexual orientation, age, religion, or nationality Georges-Abeyie Petit Apartheid Social Distance Severity Scale to predict criminal justice process outcomes when the identity characteristics of those making discretionary decisions and those impacted are similar or dissimilar. Petit Apartheid Social Distance Severity Scale. His frank interview with Justice Bruce Wright confirmed that each actor brings his personal bias into his duties in the criminal justice system.

New York State Supreme Court Justice the Honorable McM. Bruce Wright, author of Black Robes, White Justice (1992), a criminal justice advocate, believed that a judge should consciously be “Black, Hispanic, female, working class, et cetera”, while adjudicating. Judge Wright believed that all judges manifested their social, cultural, racial, ethnic, gender, and social class biases while adjudicating. We are all impacted by life experiences. He gave an example, a specific judge, who would regularly, with pride and pomposity, proclaimed that he “quickly sized-up a defendant” as the defendant was led into the court in chains, by noting the demeanor, gait, body-language, and general physical appearance of the defendant before the defendant’s attorney, or the defendant, uttered a single word.

What appalled Judge Wright was not the scrutinizing of that defendant but the denial of the phenomenologically filtered judgment, which accompanied that observation. (Georges-Abeyie, 2006) Multi factors economic, personal bias and what are considered subtle bias, offender age and gender, are major factors in the level of racial disparity within the criminal justice system. (Georges-Abeyie, 2006;; Austin, et al., 2012;Bonczar, 2003; Brewer & Heitzeg; Glaze & Herberman, 2012; Green, 2012; Lacey,2010; González & Chang, 2011; Lee & Vukich, 2001;Loury, 2010)Mauer & King, 2007; Petersilia, 1983; Spohn, 2000; Tonry, 1994;

Marc Mauer has been reporting on racial disparity since 1975 report on racial disparity and mass incarceration in the criminal justice system. His 1995 report led the New York Times to editorialize that the report “should set off alarm bells from the White House to city halls – and help reverse the notion that we can incarcerate our way out of fundamental social problems.” Finding evidence of direct discrimination against minorities in the role of race, prediction, and discretion in the criminal justice system (Baradaran, 2013; Mauer M. 2009) Research has proven that the first point of discrimination that afflicts the system is contact with the police. Police arrest black defendants more often for crimes than white defendants. (Mauer & King, 2007) Spohn in his report, Thirty Years of Prison Reform: the race for a neutralizing sentence process,” found that “a certain type” of minority offenders, perhaps because they are perceived as being more dangerous, are singled out for arrest and harsher treatment.

These markers are Blacks and Hispanics who are young, male, and unemployed are particularly more likely than their white counterparts to be sentenced to prison and in some jurisdictions, they also receive longer sentences or differential benefits from guideline departures. There is also evidence that minorities convicted of drug offenses, those with longer prior criminal records, those who victimize whites, and those who refuse to plead guilty or are unable to secure pretrial release are punished more severely than similarly situated whites. (Spohn, 2000) Crime rates, law enforcement priorities, sentencing legislation and other factors play a role in creating racial disparities in incarceration. (Roth, 2001).

The prosecutors, more than any other officials in the criminal justice system, have the most direct impact on racial disparities, and thus, must bear the most responsibility in remedying them. (Davis, 1998) Race (and in particular racial stereotypes) plays a role in the judgments and decision making by all of the participants within the criminal justice system. The influence of an individual’s bias is subtle and often undetectable in any given case, but its effects are significant and observable over time. When policymakers determine policy, when official actors exercise discretion, and when citizens proffer testimony or jury-service, bias often plays a role. (Georges-Abeyie, 2006).

In January of 2000, 19-year-old Jason Williams was convicted of selling a total of 1/8 oz. of cocaine on four separate occasions. Although he had no prior convictions, the Texas youth was sentenced to 45 years in prison under a state law provision that increases penalties for drug sales that occur within 1,000 feet of a school or park. As it turns out, roughly half of Williams’ hometown of Tulia falls within these “drug-free zones.” Williams was just one of 46 Tulians – including more than 10 percent of the town’s black population – caught up in a law-enforcement sweep initiated by a single undercover officer who claimed that he had bought drugs from each of them. Half faced enhanced prison terms under the drug-free zone statute, and many pled guilty in order to avoid Williams’ fate. In the months that followed sentencing, it became clear that the evidence used to convict Williams and the other defendants had been fabricated by Tom Coleman, the undercover officer.

The wrongfully convicted Tulians were pardoned by Governor Rick Perry in August 2003, but the incident remains a vivid example of the dangerous excesses of the nation’s increasingly unpopular “war on drugs.” These systems operate collectively to ensure the subordinate status of a group defined largely by race. And while the size of the system alone might suggest that it would touch the lives of most Americans, racial disparities in the US prison system have been increasing throughout the last third of the twentieth century (Alexander, 2010; Tonry, 1994). We have to look at the first point of contact for the defendant – and follow his journey through the criminal justice system through the maze of racial bias and discrimination and focus on answering why these disproportionalities exist.

The problem of racial disparity is one which builds at each stage of the criminal justice continuum from arrest through parole, rather than the result of the actions at any single stage. How race, ethnicity, class, and gender influence decisions about individuals being processed through the criminal justice system. (Georges-Abeyie, 2006; Marc Mauer; 2009; Lynch & Sabol, 1997). Statistics show the cumulative impact of decisions made through personal bias at one level contributes to racial disparities at subsequent levels in the criminal justice system. Race-based differences in individual treatment are some of the most apparent in American society today and these bias based decisions challenge the principle that the criminal justice system is fair, effective and just.

Study Purpose
This study explores the extent of racial disparity within the criminal justice system and where it exists. The criminal justice system involves numerous actors—such as police officers, prosecutors, judges, jurors, and eyewitnesses—whose decisions and judgments have a significant impact on the conviction and punishment of criminal defendants this study will demonstrate how how race significantly affects the decisions and judgments of those at various levels within the criminal system. (Blumstein et al. 1983, 72; Lee & Vukich, 2001). Does racial disparity exist within the criminal justice system?

Does the perceptions of race affect their response to offenders?

Hypothesis: Racial disparity exist within the criminal justice system?

Null Hypothesis
Racial disparity does not exist within the criminal justice system.

Research Design
This study will use a longitudinal design that will collect data through questionnaire structured interviews, observations and analysis of documents. Sampling Using secondary data from the General Social Survey conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago in connection with the Implicit Association Test (IAT), which measures reaction times in response to certain visual stimuli. (González & Chang, 2011). The sample frame will represent all actors in the criminal justice system.

This study uses a research design that simultaneously collects quantitative and qualitative data through the use of various survey instruments, observations and questionnaires by which to conduct bivariate comparisons of incarceration rates for whites and racial minorities and methodologically more rigorous multivariate analyses designed to identify direct race and indirect race effects and for interaction between race and other predictions of arrest, sentencing and adjudication. A link between discrimination and disproportionality using multi-variate organizational, environmental, contextual and individual factors with police behavior and research on the effects of pre-trial decision making (Mauer & King, 2007). The intent of this approach is to gain a broader perspective than would be otherwise achieved from only one data collection method (Small, 2011).

Moreover, this mixed-methods approach for the collection and analyses of data will be utilized to increase the validity of the research and the reliability of the findings by using the results of both methods to support each other (Bachman & Schutt, 2007; Creswell, 2013). Quantitative data using a survey and school database will be used to obtain an overview of the research questions I will use qualitative methodology through semi structured focus groups, giving studies the opportunity to convey their personal encounter with the criminal justice system so that a fuller understanding of factors involved with racial/ethnic disparity.

Issues of validly and reliability
Validity methodologies include testing subjects while “measuring cardiovascular response, micro-facial movements, or neurological activity when viewing. As another example, police officers in one experiment exhibited a tendency to associate Black (as opposed to White) faces with criminality. In yet another experiment, both police and probation officers exhibited a significant influence of race on their judgments of culpability and decisions to arrest and to charge. Much of this research is done in connection with the Implicit Association Test (IAT), which measures reaction times in response to certain visual stimuli.71 Other methodologies include testing subjects while “measuring cardiovascular response, micro-facial movements, or neurological activity (González & Chang, 2011) Limitations

What tends to be expressed may not provide good data about “true” attitudes, especially when people wish to conceal their motives or if they have unconscious biases. Sentencing data are limited in terms of demographic and extra-legal variables, and these data are neither readily available nor easily obtainable.

Contribution to the field
Racial disparity operates as a tightly networked system of laws, policies, customs, and institutions within our criminal Justice system. This information will inform decision makers about differences in the unequal treatment of defendants based on the illegitimate criteria of race, when ‘like cases’ with respect to case attributes—regardless of their legitimacy defendants are sentenced differently. Possibly identifying gaps between established policies and actual practices. It will outline the various levels that racial disparity enters the criminal justice system. The decision-making that occurs prior to sentencing often has a greater impact on the punishment that offenders receive than does the exercise of discretion in sentencing. If there are differences in the way these decisions are made for different racial and ethnic groups, such differences could contribute to sentencing disparities that would be masked by “legal” factors.

Arrest and conviction rates do not correlate precisely with criminal behavior rates and cannot serve as a proxy for criminality. A very large portion of disproportionality cannot be explained by legitimate race neutral factors, leading us to conclude that race matters in ways that are not fair, that do not advance legitimate public safety objectives, that produce racial disparities in the criminal justice system, and that undermine public confidence in our legal system (González & Chang, 2011)  Analysis will show that the ways that the correctional system in the United States functions to control minorities through deliberately chosen, systematically imposed legal restrictions. Is that crime rates do not explain the sudden and dramatic mass incarceration of African Americans during the past 30 years. Crime rates have fluctuated over the last few decades—they are currently at historical lows—but imprisonment rates have consistently soared. Quintupled, in fact. And the vast majority of that increase is due to the War on Drugs. (Alexander, 2010; Russell-Brown, 2008)

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Cadora, E., Clear, T. R., Dansky, K., Greene, J., Gupta, V., . . . Young, M. C. (2012). ENDING MASS INCARCERATION:CHARTING A NEW JUSTICE REINVESTMENT. Washington: The Sentencing Project. Baradaran, S. (2013). Race, Prediction, and Discretion. George Washington Law Review, 157-216. . Bonczar, T. P. (2003). Prevalence of Imprisonment in the U.S. Population, 1974-2001. Washington,DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics. Retrieved from http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/piusp01.pdf Brewer, R. M., & Heitzeg, N. A. (2008). The Racialization of Crime and Punishment: Criminal Justice Color-Blind Racism, and the Political Economy of the Prison Industrial Complex . American Behavioral Scientist, 625-644. Bridges, G. S., & Sheen, S. ( 1998). Racial Disparities in Official Assessments of Juvenile Offenders: Attributional Stereotypes as Mediating Mechanisms. American Sociological Review, 554-570. Davis, A. J. (1998). “Prosecution and Race: The Power and Privilege of Discretion.”. Fordham Law Review, 50. Georges-Abeyie, D. E. (2006). Race, Ethnicity, and Social Distance Severity. The Western Journal of Black Studies, Vol. 30, (No. 2), 20. Glaze, L. E., & Herberman, E. J. (2012). Correctional Populations in the United States Series. Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics. González, S. C., & Chang, R. S. (2011). Task Force on Race and the Criminal Justice System . Seattle: Task Force on Race and the . Green, A. (2012). The disproportionate impact of the criminal justice system on people of color in the capital region. The Center for Law & Justice. Greene, K., Pranis, K., & Ziedenberg, P. (2006, March). Disparity by Design: How drug-free zone laws impact racial disparity – and fail to protect youth. Justice Policy Institute, p. 1. James Forman, J. (n.d.). RACIAL CRITIQUES OF MASS INCARCERATION: BEYOND THE NEW JIM CROW. Yale Law School. Kleiman, M. (1997). “Drug-Free or Unfree: To Get Heavy Users to Stay Clean, Link Parole and Probation to Abstinence. Washington: The Washington Post . Lacey, N. (2010). American imprisonment in comparative perspective. Daedalus, Vol. 139(No. 3 ), 102-114. Lee, N., & Vukich, E. M. (2001). Race in the Criminal Justice System. Wsashington: State of Washington Sentencing Guidelines Commission. Loury, G. (2010). Crime, Inequality and Social Justice. American Academy oif Arts and Sciences, 134-140. Lynch, J. P., & Sabol, W. (1997). Did getting tough on crime pay? Washington, DC: The Urban Institute. Mauer, M. (2008). Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs Hearing on Federal
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