Unfair Incarceration: Minorities’ Plight in the U.S. Judicial System
Cultural Diversity in the Professions SOCS 350N
The United States is well known as the Land of Opportunity, but if you’re a minority that opportunity maybe a greater chance of being incarcerated in the state and federal penal systems. Civil rights battles have raged for the greater part of the last century in this country. With milestone victories in the early and mid 1960’s equality under the law seemed to be a foregone conclusion. There are numerous laws, policies and even a Constitutional Amendment that address the matter that race should never be a factor. With ...view middle of the document...
This pledge was meant to reaffirm what it meant to live in America and more importantly to be an American. The last prose, “…indivisible with liberty and justice for all.” (Bellamy, 1892) It is a basic tenant that holds true that everyone should be treated equal and just no matter what his or her race, color, or creed may be. This is so important that a reference to the need for equality and justice have made it to the Constitution of the United States in it original form and amplified in the Fourteenth Amendment. However, this is not currently the case when it comes to minorities in this country. Minorities are over represented in the U.S. Penal System given their relative population density.
According to the NAACP, (2013) there are as of 2008 some 2.3 million people in the United States in correctional custody. Of that number they cite that 1 million of those are African Americans. If you where to add in the incarcerated Hispanic population it would tally some 58% of the total. The disparity is that African Americans only represent approximately 13% of the total population and Hispanics roughly 16%. (Mauer & King, 2007 p 2) Whites account for about 70% of the total population in the U.S. and 35 % of inmates, which is significantly less of the incarcerated population per capita. (Bobo & Thompson, 2006 p. 451) Mauer & King, (2007 p. 2) cite several statistics that report African Americans are incarcerated at a rate of nearly six times that of Whites and Hispanics are nearly double the White rate.
This phenomenon is not evenly distributed across the country. The highest rates are disproportionality distributed to the North East and Midwest of the United States, with the highest rate belonging to Iowa at 13.6 to 1. (Mauer & King, 2007 p.3) The only commonality across the data is that the African Americans incarcerated are in 86% of the cases male, 83% are young with a median age of 27, and the median sentence served is 20 months. (Abrams, Bertrand, & Mullainathan, 2010)
The interesting sociologic question is not to debate the numbers, but to understand why this has occurred and is still occurring. Overt racism is clearly outlawed in the United States by all accounts, but much more prevalent and insidious is institutional racism. Institutional racism is less visible, elusive, and unidentifiably multifaceted. (Cole, 2008) This defines the sometimes-unintentional affects of policies, system structure, and processes that disproportionately target certain peoples. Studying this is difficult due to it’s covert nature so researchers are forced to make inferences and correlations. It seems that for every study there is a counter study or a caveat at the end to avoid slanderous content.
The facts are that the institutions and policies are such that the minorities are not well represented in the administration of the system and its policy formation which indirectly targets its populace. A majority of...