Race and the American Justice System

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Race and the American Justice System

SOCS 350N: Cultural Diversity in the Professions

February 23, 2013

Crime statistics and incarceration rates reveal that young African American men are prosecuted and imprisoned at higher rates than their Non-Hispanic White counterparts. Although the total number of incarcerations by race does not vary significantly, the age of prisoners by race is meaningful. In December 2011, the U.S. Department of Justice statistics for sentenced male prisoners under state and federal jurisdiction totaled 1,537,415. Broken down by race, Blacks totaled 555,300 prisoners with Whites totaling 465,100 and Hispanics 331,500. As the assignment scenario noted, in 2003 there was disparity between the incarceration rates for males aged 25-29 among races. As of 2011, rates for the same age group do not show as wide of a gap. In 2011, White males ages 25 to 29 comprised 14.4 percent of incarcerated males compared to 16.5 percent Blacks and 18.8 percent Hispanics. The statistics from the U.S. Department of Justice for 2011 show that “More than half (52%) of white male prisoners were age 39 or younger, compared to 63% of black and 68% of Hispanic male prisoners.” There remains disparity when age is factored into the incarceration rates with eleven percent more Blacks and sixteen percent more Hispanics incarcerated than Whites for those 39 and younger. In addition, one must consider that African Americans have higher rates of arrest, conviction, and incarceration when they total a minority number in the population. When evaluating these numbers, one must consider the role that structured inequality plays. As Alexander (2010) notes, “The unfortunate reality we must face is that racism manifests itself not only in individual attitudes and stereotypes, but also in the basic structure of society” (p. 179). This built in racism and resulting stereotypes and attitudes towards minority groups encourages structured inequality. The fabric of society is woven together with opportunities for education and employment for those with access while minority citizens are trapped without the means to gain the same level of education or employment required to become successful. As a result of this structured inequality, young males, most often Black or Hispanic, are locked into a pattern of second-class citizenship with no apparent means or tools to the resources of the majority, the White male. Factors Contributing to Crime

“Those trapped within the system are not merely disadvantaged, in the sense that they are competing on an unequal playing field or face additional hurdles to political or economic success; rather, the system itself is structured to lock them into subordinate position” (Alexander, 2010, p. 180). Education

For mainstream America it feels comfortable to believe that the United States educational system provides equal opportunity and educational programs to all its citizens. But, a look into the public education system shows otherwise. Equal access to quality education is often times dependent on where a student lives as well as economic factors. “The opportunity of students to learn is determined by the quality of the schools they attend. And the access to good public schools – well funded, with experienced and highly educated teachers, and programs for gifted students – depends on the neighborhood of the student” (Jones, 2012, p.5). Schools are partially funded by the tax base from homeowners in the neighborhoods surrounding the school. “The National Center for Education Statistics reports that 28 percent of funding for America’s public schools comes from local property tax” (Nealy, 2008, p.12). It follows that a neighborhood with lower property values that may have a disproportionate minority population, has less funding for schools. As cited by Tomlinson and Javius (2012, p.28), “Many of our schools are overwhelmingly attended by low-income and racially and linguistically diverse...
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