Minorities in criminal justice
There has been much of the debate on the question whether or not the minorities, especially African Americans and Latino, are overrepresented in the criminal justice system. The recent research proves that minorities are overrepresented not only in prisons but also in juvenile facilities for youth. Minority overrepresentation is the result of the early stages in criminal justice including the decision whom to arrest, keeping them in detention for the period of investigation, referring the case to the court and, sentencing as the result. Some argue that the overrepresentation of the minority is only the result of the minority groups committing more crimes; however, the statistics is more complicated.
One of the possible explanations for minority overrepresentation is discrimination. Discrimination in the criminal justice is when minority groups have higher chances to be arrested, referred to courts, confined in a security facility. Overrepresentation occurs at all levels of justice system. Those who oppose the opinion that minorities are overrepresented say that the average percent of arrests of black people, for example, is only 26 compared to 74 of whites. However, these 26% result in 45% of cases with detention (Miller 1997). In addition, the overrepresentation of minorities is found in violent crimes and confinement.
Thus, the overrepresentation can be explained with other factors, different from discrimination but some prejudice still plays an important role. Further, there is enough evidence to prove the notion that the minority groups are in reality treated differently from the majority groups by the representatives of the justice system. Approximately 75 percent of the researchers in this question have concluded that racial and ethnic differences have influenced the decision making in the justice system (Miller 1997).
Some believe that the overrepresentation of the minority groups in the justice system is not discriminatory because these minority groups tend to commit more crimes than Whites, for example. However the following examples prove that the problem is not in amount of committed crimes:
- police policies and practices: targeting the low income neighbourhoods, group arrest procedures;
- location of the crime: minorities tend to sell drugs on the street while the white youth does it at home where the chances to be caught are much lower;
- different reaction of the victim committed by the majority or minority representative. As the result, major findings are that race has its impact on the justice process at one stage or another.
In order the find the evidence to support the minority overrepresentation, the studies were conducted which ascribe its causes to ethical bias towards minority youth. The criminal history, specific offence classifications and other relevant information were used to prove that the justice systems are not neutral to the race and ethnicity factors. Moreover, the overrepresentation of minorities increases with each stage of the process. The current trend is that the disproportionate numbers of minority individuals are the subjects to the court processing and incarceration of the youth in adult prisons.
Some of the statistics to support overrepresentation: even though only 41 percent of the felony cases are committed by the African Americans but 70 percent of these cases are transferred to the court and handled in the criminal justice system. While the percentage of the felony crimes committed by Whites and transferred to the court is less than 30. Two thirds of the minority convictions result in incarceration: 50 percent in adult prison and 20 in jail prison (Cole 2000). While the numbers for Whites are much lower – they receive less strict punishments for the same crimes.
African American young people, the 15 percent of the US population in this group, account for 25 percent of the arrest, 30 percent of the referrals to the court and 40 percent detained, 46 percent for corrections institutions and more than 50 transferred to the adult criminal courts As these numbers prove, the overrepresentation of the minority groups increases in correlation with the levels of criminal system.
In addition, the overrepresentation of the minorities in the criminal system changes over time. For example, ten years ago the long-term custody rate for African Americans was approximately 4 times the rate for Whites, and the black young individual had 7 times more chances to be held in the public detention facility compared to the white. Today, the relationship is different: long-term custody rate is 7 times the rate for Whites and public detention punishment for the blacks is 10 times more probable for blacks compared to the whites (Cole 2000).
Moreover, the admission of African Americans for every offence is higher compared to the Whites. Black men and women are 5 times more likely to be admitted to criminal facilities for crimes against the persons, property crimes and drug offences. If it not the discrimination in the criminal system, then blacks do commit more crimes. However, such huge difference between number of crimes of Whites and Blacks needs to be explained only from biological and genetically position. Fortunately, the scientists have already proved that Blacks have the same predisposition to crime as Whites; therefore, the problem lies in the discriminatory attitudes of the justice representatives.
Such overrepresentation is found not in one city, or the particular state, it is the problem of the whole country. Below are some numbers to show how the overrepresentation of minorities increases with increase in the criminal justice system in several states (Joseph 2002).
California: minorities are 53 percent of the state population and they account for 60 percent of all arrested, 65 percent of them are held in the secure detention and 70 percent are placed in secure correction
Ohio: minorities are 14 percent of the state population and they account for 30 percent of all arrested, 40 percent are placed in secure correction.
- Texas: minorities are 50 percent of the state population and they account for 65 percent of those who are held in the secure detention and 80 percent are placed in secure correction, and 100 (!!!) percent of these juvenile minorities are held in the adult jails.
- Virginia: minorities are 30 percent of the state population and they account for 60 percent of all arrested, and 58 percent are placed in secure corrections.
- New Jersey: minorities are 29 percent of the state population and they account for 65 percent of all arrested, 87 percent are placed in secure correction and 90 percent are transferred to the adult courts.
- Connecticut: minorities are only 15 percent of the state population and they account for 50 percent of all arrested, 77 percent of them are held in the secure detention and 70 percent are placed in secure correction, 80 transferred to the adult court and 100 percent end up in the adult jails.
The above statistics rises many of the questions and one of them is why the minority groups receive the more severe punishments compared to the majority (whites)? Moreover, the minority overrepresentation is also found in the commitments to state institutions than with the whites being arrested for the same offences. In the conclusion, each separate case of law violation is processed differently in the criminal justice systems. However, the overrepresentation of the minority groups in such critical decisions as arrests, detentions, trial, and referring young people to adult courts needs to be addressed. Discrimination in any activity of criminal justice should be eliminated. Minorities are not committing more crimes than the Whites or other majority groups, the problem lies in the method authorities use to distinguish between majority and minority groups.
- Cole, D. (2000). No Equal Justice: Race and Class in the American Criminal Justice System. New Press.
- Joseph, J, & Taylor, D. (2002). With Justice for All: Minorities and Women in Criminal Justice. Prentice Hall Press.
- Miller, J. (1997). Search and Destroy: African-American Males in the Criminal Justice System. Cambridge University Press.
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