Racism is a belief that particular race is inferior or superior to another. There have been many proceedings in the American Justice system that has indicated a failing in the country’s prison system especially with regard to the disproportionate population of black men. This has continued to invigorate supporters and opponents of prison reform alike.
History of Racism in the U.S. Criminal Justice System
Ex-slaves of African American origin, who migrated to the South in search of better social and economic opportunity, were charged against vagabondage which had severe punishments. This led to a dramatic increase in the number of African American prisoners. The prisons created race-based systems with grueling labor for prisoners. Convicts were leased to contractors for their business enterprises. However, due to lobbying by manufacturers as it led to cheap production of goods by prisoners, it was stopped.
Also, the sentencing of Warren McCleskey, an African American, to death for killing a police officer, was influential as his lawyers considered race as a major factor in the ruling. Although their argument was rejected, the case is a point of reference in racism cases. Due to increased crime rate, by 2004, 26 states had adopted mandatory sentencing laws – formulated in 1990s – whose credibility is questionable as some people argue that they are racist while others argue that the crime rate has greatly reduced. Also, the ratio of African Americans in the U.S. prisons is an issue of concern as reports by the U.S. Justice department statistics show that African Americans are imprisoned at seven times compared to the whites; thus, policy analysts have pushed for training, rehabilitation, and counseling for prisoners.
Critics of criminal justice reform disagree that racism remains a problem in the modern society. They have succeeded in blunting significant changes to the American justice system. They cite studies showing built-in safeguards that prevent racism but ignore the likelihood of some juries, practicing race-based nullifications. They also claim that crime has everything to do with personal responsibility. Therefore, African Americans themselves are to blame for the high incarceration rates.
The Consequences of the War on Drugs
The drug war nauseatingly singles-out African Americans. For instance, statistics show that since 1980, drug-related policies have contributed more to the confinement of African Americans than any other. Resources to reduce drug crime are alleged to concentrate on predominantly black working-class and middle-class neighborhoods. The subsequent conviction contributes to a higher black American population in prisons.
Critique of the “New Jim Crow” Video
According to Michele Alexander in “the New Jim Crow” video, great proportions of minority races have been incarcerated in comparison to the majority communities. This is due to enacting of laws that seem to target minorities and greater enforcement of these laws in minority neighborhoods.
What the professor says about racism in the system is absolutely true because black Americans have been criminalized by the drug laws. Unfortunately, the African-American community has been savaged by the laws; thus, those enriching themselves from the drug war have now targeted everyone else. Hence, the white people might now find themselves in the same problem.
Various icons in the American society like Thomas Jefferson and George Washington have been on record in the use of smoked marijuana. The war on drugs was initially a political tactic to win poor white communities. However, if American courts and judges’ concerns were legitimate, the laws would have already been struck down as unconstitutional.
In conclusion, racism in the U.S. Justice System is evident. The enacted and enforced laws are greatly biased on African Americans. This is supported by statistical studies by government and private bodies. The mass incarceration of black communities based on the laws explicitly indicates the need to address this thorny issue in a significantly neutral manner.