United States Is Home To 5%
United States is home to 5% of the world population; but 25% of the world’s prisoners.
This is not a great sign as an increase in crime rates is never good. Moreover, it is noted that these crime rates are varied with racial discrimination. These are statistics from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
“African Americans are incarcerated at more than 5 times the rate of whites.
The imprisonment rate for African American women is twice that of white women.
Nationwide, African-American children represents 32% of children who are arrested, 42% of children who are detained, and 52% of children whose cases are judicially waived to criminal court”
(Criminal Justice Fact Sheet, NAACP)
The discrimination and disparity between the African-Americans and White Americans in different ways that has been historical and continue to date ; some formats followed by the society and justice system proven through various findings has been responsible over decades of constantly pushing the African-Americans behind the prison bars. This is especially from the criminal justice system who appear to believe that a black invariably is a criminal with or without weapon. America has and will need to continue working a long way up to improve their mindset and their culture of racial discrimination in the nation.
Race has been a factor in the United States criminal justice system since the system’s beginnings, and continues to be a factor throughout United States history through the present. For a little background and history, let’s review how it used to be in the early days of civilisation.
African Americans were brought into the country as slaves, in the construction of the United States Constitution in 1789, slavery and white supremacy were made part of the justice system.
Lynching and Lynch-Law date back to the 1700s , the law was originally regulatory, providing regulations regarding how lynching could and could not be carried out. Thousands of African- Americans were hanged or brutally murdered only under the assumption that being black they have done something criminal.
Lynch law was renewed with the anti-slavery movement, as several acts of violence towards people of color took place in the early 1830s. However, a court decision in the Dred Scott case 1857 made it so that African slaves and their descendants were considered non-citizens, further incorporating racism into the justice system.
Jim Crow brought the Segregation Laws making discrimination legal. This law gave a permanent second class status to the Black.
13th Amendment – Mass Incarceration : Post the Civil War; the 13th amendment to the constitution passed by the Senate in 1865 endorsed eradication of slavery, allowing all Americans freedom, of course with the exception that you are not a CRIMINAL. When slavery was abolished violence against African-Americans increased tremendously as this endangered the economy. As a result, the African-Americans were arrested in masses resulting in Mass Incarceration. They were arrested for the most minor of crimes and were then made to provide labour to rebuild the economy. This was just the beginning of the racial discrimination which has since then been the cause of the ongoing criminalization in the region.
Given the notorious effect of the 13th amendment of the United States Constitution which has exempted criminals under its purview, it is imperative that the 13th amendment is further modified to eliminate this exception, as under its blanket, the United States Criminal justice department has incarcerated several convicts into the US jails without any judgment/ruling passed against them as well as several innocent US citizens have fallen prey to this legal loophole especially with the concentration on Blacks. They should enact laws that disallow racism in any form or manner and give equal opportunities to all irrespective of any discrimination.
Some of the effects and the challenges that exists as listed below :
Wealth Gap line :
Lack of family assets along with continuing racial discrimination in crucial areas like homeownership impact the everyday lives of many black families, perpetuating the cycle of poverty.
Social isolation and concentration of poverty can marginalize poor individuals from mainstream society. Such conditions disproportionately affect poor minorities, who, cut off from society, lack access to jobs, to higher education, and to positive role models.
Increase in Crime rates :
The Blacks living conditions lead to patterns of high unemployment and dissatisfaction with the limited work available lead to altered norms of behavior, such as involvement with drugs or violence.
Because African Americans constitute a disproportionate share of those living in poverty in the United States, they are more likely to reside in low-income communities in which socioeconomic factors contribute to higher crime rates.
As such, Ohio State University researchers Lauren Krivo and Ruth Peterson found that “it is these differences in disadvantage that explain the overwhelming portion of the difference in crime, especially violent crime, between white and African American communities.”
Lack of access to the legal system :
Another potential cause of such disproportionately high incarceration rates for Black Americans is the ability to make bail and the ability to access high-quality legal counsel. Due to the fact that both of these important factors cost money, it is unlikely that poor Black Americans are able to afford them and benefit from them.
Unemployed offenders are more likely to be incarcerated than their employed counterparts, and then even with similar crimes and criminal records minorities were imprisoned more often than Whites.
War on Drugs :
Between 1980 and 2000, the U.S. black drug arrest rate rose from 6.5 to 29.1 per 1,000 persons; during the same period, the white drug arrest rate increased from 3.5 to 4.6 per 1,000 persons. But surprisingly to the contrary of the above, In 2012, the National Institute on Drug Abuse published a study which found that white students were slightly more likely to have abused an illegal substance than black students.
Yet from 1980-2010, black youth were arrested for drug crimes at rates more than double those of white youth. Clearly public policies labeled the “War on Drugs” of the 1980s and 1990s largely targeted minorities.
Drug consumption further stretches in various other related crime rates such as violence, robbery murders resulting in the large number of Black prisoners.
Traffic Stop Unarmed attacks
Data on traffic stops also demonstrates the influence of racial bias on law enforcement practices and arrest rates. Evidence says that implicit racial bias influences police in deciding which cars to stop.
In the U.S. Department of Justice’s report , the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that while white and/or black drivers were stopped at similar rates nationwide, Black drivers were three times as likely to be searched during a stop as white drivers .
Furthermore, black drivers were twice more likely to experience the use or threat of violent force at the hands of police officers than white drivers. Such statistics are consistent with research indicating that as a defense to the racial discrimination, the Black Americans tend to react with dangerous or aggressive behavior, and this significantly increases police officers’ willingness to employ violence against them adding up to the prisoners numbers. (Website of the Federal Bureau of Prisons; Statistics based on prior month’s data)
Roughly only 12% of the United States population is black. Yet in 2011, black Americans constituted 30% of persons arrested for a property offense and 38% of persons arrested for a violent offense.
What next? The causes of the racial disparities in the U.S. criminal justice system are complex and deeply rooted. There are concrete measures, however, that the United States can adopt to reduce both the existence and the effects of racial bias in its system. The justice system can and must take steps to do so in order to uphold its obligations under its own constitution and international law.
Changes in the mindset is the key by bringing changes in the livelihood, laws and policies.
Following are few suggestions by the various international bodies with the sole intention to eliminate racial disparity in the United States.
1. Closing the Racial Wealth Gap with the basic fundamentals of livelihood.
Public policies can play a critical role in creating a more equitable society. Increase Homeownership options and facilities; bring in fair housing policies so that the legacy of residential segregation no longer confers greater positions to white homeowners than it does to black homeowners; instead encourage making increasingly diverse neighborhoods with equitable opportunities. Have or provide stable, family-supporting jobs and increasing incomes as a prime avenue for bridging the wealth gap caused by income disparity, equal opportunities should be fully implemented at the national, state, and local levels, including raising the minimum wage, enforcing equal pay provisions and other benefits.
2. There is a need for the society to extend its hands and welcome children of all class with equal respect. The government needs to bring in support policies that help more students from low-and moderate-income families and families of color be educated and help reduce the racial wealth gap. We need to invest in affordable early childhood development so every child is healthy and prepared for school. Run campaigns in the educational institutions with the appropriate message of racism eradication. Social psychologists can contribute to the effort to improve policing in order to promote a fairer, more equal, healthier society.
3. Limiting the discretion that police officers have in who they stop in the first place. This would help in reducing a lot of Traffic Stop offenses. Police officers have remarkably high discretion in who they can choose to stop and search. By setting higher and clearer thresholds for reasonable suspicion, police supervisors would cause their patrol officers to make fewer stops, more of which would be justified and fruitful.
4. Establish a National Criminal Justice Commission.
The United States should establish a National Criminal Justice Commission to examine incarceration and racial disparities. The commission should develop recommendations for systemic reform of the criminal justice system at the federal, state, and local levels
5. Enact the Racial Profiling Act of 2013.
The United States should endorse the End Racial Profiling Act of 2013. The act, reintroduced into the United States Senate by Senator Ben Cardin in May 2013, would prohibit racial profiling and mandate training on racial profiling for federal law enforcement officials. The United States should develop and implement training designed to mitigate the influence of implicit racial bias at every level of the criminal justice system.
In conclusion Americans like to uphold values of equality and justice for all, however until the criminal justice system is truly equal not based on race or ethnicity, equality and justice will not be achieved. As long as African Americans fear enforcement officials and as long as imprisonment is an ordinary life encounter for many of them and as long as racial profiling is allowed as a suitable form of law enforcement, equality and justice is not possible.
Change may not come effortlessly, and may come slowly, but it is achievable. Until the whole society sees each other as an equal, there will be no justice in the criminal justice system. As a mark of improvement, recent statistics as of April 2018 presents that the proportion of white inmates in US prisons have increased considerably to 58.4% whereas the Black inmates are about 37.9% .
As an ongoing effort, the Federal Government should use its financial and ideological power to incentivize and illuminate better paths forward. Introduce and implement reforms that both reduce the number of people incarcerated in the United States and do away with racial and ethnic disparities in Criminal Justice System.