Race is a tool which many use to identify themselves politically such that a political state may provide differential treatment to its citizens according to their race. It is of common knowledge that the whites are considered a superior race to the blacks therefore, many things are considered legitimate or illegal as per their virtues and values. Many still believe that race does not relate in any way to the crimes and that the criminal justice system is not racist which of course is a wrong assumption. I tend to disagree with such an assumption because justice and crime relationship to the race, according to this essay is very strong. This essay focuses on the relationship between the justice system, race and crime. It further reviews the literature on existing evidence of race affiliation to crime. Finally, it analyses data collected on the issue of race, crime and justice, giving concrete a conclusion supporting its discussions.
Since time in memorial, race has formed the basis of dispensing justice in our legal system. This was evident during the start of the twentieth century where there were de jure discrimination aimed at African Americans and their omission from the juries. Of concern particularly, was the rise in death penalties against African American offenders who faced off against white victims. Research studies show that among three young blacks, nearly one of them is facing criminal charges in a court of law or is even on parole. This has been heavily linked to the unemployment rate which is much higher among the blacks than the whites. Researchers put this ratio at about three to one in favor of the African Americans while the incarceration disparity among the blacks and whites has risen to about seven to one in favor of the blacks. Many ask the question, why? To explain this theories, there have been advanced and narratives developed. Among these narratives is the ‘New Jim Crow’ which has been likened to mass incarceration.
Studies have shown that the criminal justice system holds more blacks than the slaves in the mid nineteenth century. In the year two thousand and six for instance, it was found that among nine black men in the United States, one was in prison and that African Americans were seven times more likely to be convicted than the whites. In the year two thousand and eight, during a presidential primary debate, President Barack Obama questioned why blacks and whites are arrested and convicted at different rates. He also sought to know why whites and blacks were given different sentences even though they were perceived to have committed the same crime. Such is the disparity that a report released in the year two thousand and six showed that blacks formed thirty seven percent of the convicts in American prisons. Given that blacks form only thirteen percent of the American population, thirty seven percent is a very high figure which some consider unrealistic. The report also showed that nearly one in thirty five black men was a prisoner compared to one in one hundred and ninety five white men and one in eighty one Hispanics. About thirteen percent of middle aged blacks languished in American prisons (Barak, Gregg, Flavin, Jeanne, Leighton, Paul, 2007).
This report cemented the racial accusations leveled against the justice system. The institutions behind such high rates of African American conviction are the legal system which is perceived to be biased, the prisons and the drug enforcement agencies. It is widely believed that the high rates of black incarceration are a product of crimes committed by the blacks. Another report released by the Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics in the year two thousand and five showed that homicide related crimes committed by the blacks were about eight times higher than the sum of homicide crimes committed by the whites and Hispanics together. Between the years of nineteen seventy five and two thousand and five, it was noted that fifty two percent of all murders were committed by the blacks. Around forty percent of all violent crimes were committed by the blacks and this included about fifty seven percent of robbery related crimes. These statistics are overwhelming considering the small African American population. President Obama came up with the terms ‘Scooter Libby and Jena justice’ to describe this variation in criminal justice across the racial divide.
The only way these statistics can be changed and made more realistic is by changing the decision makers. The decision makers especially in the criminal justice system and law enforcement agencies are perceived to be biased against some races. There is no single explanation one can come up with to explain the disparities that exist in the criminal justice system. The main and only reason for these disparities seem to be the biasness against some races by the decision makers.
In the book ‘New Jim Crow’, Alexander Mitchell explains how race has provided a proxy for criminal history used by the law enforcers in a world considered almost racially free today. During the Jim Crow era African Americans and blacks in general were subjected to very harsh racial treatment. They were denied basic political, economical and social rights. Such rights included the right to education, freedom of expression and even right to assembly. They were not subjected to proper justice system in which they were allowed to defend themselves; in fact some were even convicted without trial. Convicted criminals today, majority of who are black Americans, are faced with the exact situation. According to Alexander, another area where discrimination in criminal justice continues to manifest; is in drug related offences. Drugs have been a menace in the American society for a very long time and the number of drug offenders in prisons over the past few years has been on the increase. This does not surprise many however; it is the percentage of the African Americans that raise the eye brows. Various studies and research have shown that out of the drug offenders imprisoned, eighty to ninety percent are African Americans. Many do not believe this because Africans do not form the highest group of drug users in the society in fact; studies show that they use them less. Hence a disparity such as this cannot be explained (Clarke & James, 2001).
Police and prosecutors were found to be discriminatory in their investigations. They overcharged the African Americans in the courts of law. Most of their investigations and arrest targeted the minorities such as the blacks and the Latinos living in the inner cities. A study in one of the major cities showed that persons who used drugs and traded in drugs were more in the residential areas than open air markets. Despite this, police and other law enforcers placed more surveillance in the open air drug market than in the residences where complaints emanated from. They ransacked and victimized the African Americans living around the downtown drug markets even though most cases of substance abuse and drug related violence were reported in the outdoor markets associated with the whites. White drug dealers carry out their transactions more openly yet most of them are never arrested. According to medical reports, heroin caused more overdose deaths in the United States than any other drug. Such heroin is associated mostly with the whites.
However, police focused most of their resources and investigations to hunting down the crack cocaine dealers. The crack cocaine is widely used by the African American community. Crack cocaine penalties usually carry a heavy sentence for instance a five gram amount of crack cocaine carries a minimum of five year prison term. Another person having five hundred grams of powdered cocaine will also get the same five year prison term. This form of racial segregation was also witnessed along the New Jersey highways. A research showed that majority of traffic offenders arrested were blacks. In the research, it was noted that seventy three percent of the people arrested were black motorist. This was in spite of the fact that the blacks formed fifteen percent of New Jersey population and therefore the probability of them being found on the road was smaller than that of the whites.