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Racial Disparity in American Prisons

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Racial disparity in sentencing continues to be a long time culmination in the criminal justice system. The disparity in criminal sentencing is seen when individuals who commit similar or the same criminal act results in acquiring different sentences upon conviction (Jones-Brown, 2002). The paper will take a look at racial disparity in sentencing today, do an examination of reasons for racial disparity in sentencing, and possible solutions to racial disparity in sentencing.

In 1998 a national picture shows an indication that African Americans account for about 35% of adults on probation, about 49% of adults in prison, and about 44% of the adults on parole (Jones-Brown, 2002). Marc Mauer indicates that the prison populations has been on the rise for number decades, and continues to climb. From 2001 to 2004 Marc Mauer concludes that the prison populations have grown by two million incarcerations (Mauer, 2004). Marc Mauer breaks down his numbers like this: one in every eight African American males between the ages of 25-34 is put behind bars on any day, and about 32% of the African American males born today will do some time in a prison during his lifetime (Mauer, 2004).

The reason behind why racial disparity continues to grow is for four reasons. The four reasons would be prosecutorial discretion, ineffective assistance by attorney's and procedural bar, venue and jury selection, and racism by the jurors. In the case of prosecutorial discretion the comparison of white-collar crime and street crime will show the discretion. The sentence in a white-collar crime case is less than the sentence in a street crime. An example would be that if individual's cheats on his or her taxes no time will be spent behind bars. Cheating on taxes is usually in the hand of the Internal Revenue Service. Racial disparity in prisons in America can be conceptualized as a situation where the population of a specific group of people is the most in the criminal justice system as compared to the general population. Prisons in U.S.A are a significant constituent of the criminal justice system. The main function of the American prisons is to protect society from violation of law, to rehabilitate also punish the law breakers in order to assist them to be responsible members of the society. The prisons in the state continue to grow in order to meet the demands of the correctional and the criminal justice system in general. However, the trend in the justice system, especially in the prisons, is characterized by ethnic disparity. This normally compromises the level of justice dispensation. It has been a controversial issue for several decades among the prisons in the state.

Some individuals seem to defy the concept of existence of disparity in the justice system. They believe that it does not exist. For instance, statistics that were presented by Marc Mauer proved that if the argument that there existed racial discrimination in the prisons, then the extraordinary rise in the American prisons in the past three decades would be explained in six fold increase. This to him would eventually lead to incarceration of two million Americans. For instance, "one in every eight African -American male aged 25-34 year old is an incarceration case. He adds that 32% of the African- American male born are expected to spend at least a term in the state prison if racial disparity would continue." (Mauer, 2004, p. 79).

From Tabak's point of view the flourishing of the racial discrimination in the prisons has emanated from a number of factors including; "ineffectiveness in prosecutorial discretion, procedural bars and council, jury selection and venue, juror racism (Tabak, 1999, p. 6). Ineffectiveness in the procedural bars is difficult to prove because the lawyers are ineffectual (Tabak, 1999, p.6). An individual may seem quite hopeless when he/she chooses anyone to try appealing the case concerning an ineffective ruling of the council. The discriminative actions done against the minorities may not be felt most of the times in the justice system. Jury and venue selection are another area where the racial disparity is experienced. The other issue that poses the challenge of racial discrimination in the prisons is the selection of racial jurors. There are remarkably few African- American jurors in the criminal justice system which predisposes the African- American citizens to mistreatment. There is the abuse of power among the prosecutors against the African- American citizens. More whites are usually used in every trial in the criminal justice system. The exclusion of the minority groups in the jury is a significant factor that prevents the accomplishment of an objective, free and impartial judgment (Tabak, 1999, p.6).

The black Americans are commonly known to live in the in the Ghetto regions which are characterized by multiple problems. Some of the problems include the drug addiction. The penalties imposed on the drug trafficking are generally harsher than those imposed on the white collar crimes. The normal law violations which are predominant in the black American residents are normally treated unfairly. In addition, the emphasis of the American society that the black Americans are a menace usually culminates into long term effects to them. Stereotypes from the whites pertaining the black citizens that they are potential menaces in the society has resulted to the African- American being treated with a lot of contempt (Kennedy, 1996,p.20).

According to Kennedy, courts normally authorize the law enforcers to be partial in their handling of the different criminals on the basis of their races. They believe that a different race from the whites is more likely to commit crimes as compared to a white in a similar condition (Kennedy, 1996, p.20). These issues in the long run penetrate deep into perceptions and fear which culminates into racial disparity of the sentencing. Statistics also show that blacks and the Hispanics serve a greater sentence than their counterparts, the whites, even

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