Is the Criminal Justice System Racially Biased?

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  • Topic: Crime, Racism, Black people
  • Pages : 5 (1764 words )
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  • Published : October 8, 1999
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Is the Criminal Justice System Racially Biased?

Most criminologist use two sources of criminal justice data in the United States: the Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) and the National Crime Victimization Surveys (NCVS). The URC data is made from law enforcement agencies and include crime incidents reported to or obtained by the police. NCVS data is obtained from a very complex national survey of a sample of homes and provide information about crime incidents and victims for both reported and unreported crimes, excluding homicide. For my report I obtained research information from questionnaires and from several text books. I gave the questionnaire concerning bias in the criminal justice system to four whites, four blacks, one Asia, and one Mexican. Although this sample is not representative of racial attitudes in general, it can used to develop a better sense of differences among students.

To discuss my findings fully I must define a few terms. The Criminal Justice System is the network of agencies that respond to crime, including the police, courts, jails, and prisons. Minority Group is a group of people who, because of physical or cultural characteristics, are singled out for differential and different and who regard them as objects of collective discrimination. Discrimination is the act of singling out for unfair treatment. Labeling is stereotyping, or putting a tag on someone, and treating them accordingly. Self-fulling Prophecy is an expectation about how things will be the situations that they predicted or expected. Finally, Differential Association is the idea that interacting with others learns criminal behavior.

It is no secret whites and blacks in America experience life differently because of their race. Therefore, whites and blacks view the criminal justice system differently. My research found 70% of those studied agree the courts do not offer equal treatment. Although both agree that the system is biased, whites seem to have a more positive view about the whole system, while Blacks feel the system is corrupt and works' against them. 50% of my non-white sample and 20% of my white sample felt the courts discriminate. James Henslin, author of the text Social Problems, states "[Violent crime] recedes with income ... people with higher incomes live in better, more affluent and less violent neighborhoods"(Henslin 141). The criminal justice system is made up of these type people, who are mostly white, and they share the same moral community. Blacks however are on the outskirts of that moral community or in another different moral community. Ultimately whites and blacks do not relate to and understand the Criminal Justice System the same for they view and react to the actions of authorities based on their life experiences caused by race and SES

I stated earlier that blacks and whites are in different moral communities, this means that the normal excepted behavior for one group is not the same for the other group. We can prove this with statistics. The median family income for whites is 38,909 and for blacks it is 21,161. This shows that blacks earn 54% of what whites earn. In addition, 4% of whites are unemployed, while 8% of blacks are unemployed. This shows that blacks are unemployed at a rate of 200% compared with unemployed whites. Also, 9% of whites live in poverty, compared with 31% of blacks living in poverty. This is an astonishing figure that states 344% of blacks live in unacceptable conditions compared with whites. What does all of this mean? Where and how you live decide who you are, and contribute to labelling. Obviously, blacks have a lower SES and fall victim to a self-fulfilling prophecy and labels. The problem arises when "the Criminal Justice System discriminates against these groups of citizens" (Henslin 182).

In William Chambliss' study of "Saints and Roughnecks" he proved that social class does matter. People and police in the local community...
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