Disparity and discrimination from a grammatical or English point of view refer to the same thing, that of inequality or unfair treatment. However, from justice point of view, they refer to completely different things. Many people recognize that disparity and discrimination in the justice system are along ethnic and racial lines. There is a close relationship between the two vocabularies that is usually hard and indistinguishable. Which one causes the other? The aim of this paper is to critically analyze disparity and discrimination, bringing out the differences and similarities between the two. To achieve this, the paper refers to several cases involving discrimination in the justice and legal system.
The question to answer is then whether we have discrimination and disparity in our justice system. Is there disparity from the first step of arresting to the last step of sentencing? In English, the word disparity simply means a situation where there is a complete lack of equality. In the justice system, it refers to inequality in arresting, investigations, and sentencing of a certain racial or ethnic grouping. From this definition, there are two types of disparity: racial and ethnic (Keough, 2000).
Racial disparity is present when the percentage of a said race in the justice system is not proportional to the percentage of that race in the whole population. On the other hand, ethnic disparity is along community and ethnic lines. Discrimination from an English perspective is an unfair treatment directed towards a certain group because of race, religion, ethnicity and gender. Discrimination bases its origins on the characteristics of an individual (Glaze, 2006). These personal characteristics give that person some advantages or disadvantages when it comes to arrest, investigations and sentencing.
As mentioned earlier, this scenario is not an easy one to understand. There are two extremes: one where there is total discrimination and the other where there is pure justice. Pure justice refers to a scenario where racism does not exist in the system. Here, sentencing is purely on legal grounds and enforcers of the law are not prejudiced towards any group. At the other extreme, there is systematic discrimination. Here, there is total discrimination against minority groups at every stage of the justice system (Frontline, 2005).
Disparity exists when there is a misrepresentation in a group. One may say there is disparity when about eighty percent of criminal arrested are from one race or ethnic group. If among ten Americans arrested seven are blacks, one can say that the system is discriminating against the blacks. In the above example, discrimination causes disparity (Glaze, 2006). However, it is vital that before reaching this conclusion, we critically analyze whether there is a viable reason why the disparity exists.
People, however, should not jump into conclusion that disparity constitutes discrimination. Several states have an imbalance in the composition of the black and white races. Detroit, for example, has a higher population of blacks than whites. It, thus, would be logical if the number of blacks in jail were more than the number of whites. One would deem Detroit to be racially discriminating if the number of whites exceeds the number of blacks in jail (King, 2008). The exact cause of the disparity should, however, be investigated.
Discrimination bases on age, gender and race. For example, a middle-aged man is more prone to arrest than an aging man for the same crime is. Women are occasionally given less jail term than their male counterparts are for the same crime (Frontline, 2005). The law also favors those in employment compared to the unemployed. However, there is a need to investigate these injustices to come up with the best possible understanding of disparity and discrimination. The best way is using an example.
Two juveniles, one white and the other black, are in court for the same crime. The judge finds them guilty and has to propose the best correctional action for both of them. The mother of the white kid is a housewife who spends all her time at home, and; therefore, she can keep a keen eye on her kid. However, the mother of the black kid is a workaholic and rarely meets her kid, nor does she spend any time with the kid. The judge in this case would remand the black kid and release the white one. Is this discrimination?
Although discrimination is prevalent in the justice system, one must consider the general racial and economic outlook in US. The country has a tendency to marginalize the people of color and the financially poor. This tendency has found its way to the justice system. Most likely, a financially challenged offender will not get the best legal representation, which might bring about discrimination in the ruling. Latinos and black Americans are more likely to be jailed or given longer sentences than whites.
Racial disparities also occur legally. Several legal factors can explain why disparities occur in the justice system. Legal factors give an explanation to the offender’s criminal activities (Glaze, 2006). A judge may take into consideration the criminal record of an offender before giving judgment. Consider a person who had a juvenile case; in his teens and early adulthood, the suspect was behind the bars for petty theft or heavy drinking. Another suspect has no prior criminal record for the same offense. Whom would the judge give a sterner punishment? There would, of course, be a disparity in the ruling but, from a legal point of view, justified.
This legal justification should not draw attention away from the unfairness in the legal system. There is a belief that the minority groups are more criminal than the majority groupings. This proposition is untrue. It is an astonishing fact that the belief is a part of the justice system. Minority misrepresentation by the enforcers of the law is another cause of disparity and discrimination in the justice system. More than sixty percent of law enforcers are white. This stems from the fact that the white community has a better access to education than their black counterparts (Keough, 2000).
Application of the law should be equal and consistent. If America is to eliminate disparity and discrimination, it should avoid taking the criminal history of a suspect when giving sentences. However, racial discrimination stems from the widespread racism in the society. The first step to minimize discrimination in the courts is to eliminate racism in the society. Professionals must come up with the best possible ways to address the vice of disparity and discrimination. It is vital for schools to teach the topic of discrimination as well. This would ensure that there is no discrimination and disparity in the coming and future generations.