Racial Differences in the Corrections System
“According to Black Star Project Executive Director, Phillip Jackson, in 2007 there were 321 African American men enrolled at Northwestern University (1.7 percent of the student body) but four times that number – 1,207- imprisoned at Western Illinois Correctional Center (60 percent of the prison population)” (Walker, Spohn & Delone, 2012). This is only one example of the astounding percentage of young black men currently serving jail time as opposed to pursuing a college education. Something must be vitally wrong with our criminal justice system, since it allows these staggering numbers to hold truth. Overall the total percentage of young African American males is almost five times more than that of their young white or Hispanic male counterparts. I find this statistic very disturbing and chose to research the why and how this is occurring. There are many possible reasons such as limited access to public health clinics, racial profiling, unfair judicial systems, racial differences in judges, lawyers, and law makers, poverty, and parental upbringing; to name a few. How do these young men get sucked into a life of crime, do they have an alternative or a role model to seek counsel form? The numbers do not lie and there must be sound reasons behind them. In this paper I will research and discuss the various reasons why young African American males are grossly over represented in the criminal justice and corrections facilities. While the overall white population is higher than the African American population, 10.4 percent of African American men between the ages of 25-29 can expect to spend time in jail, compared with 2.4 percent of Hispanics and 1.2 percent of white men. Throughout this paper I will discuss not only the staggering numbers but also the reasoning behind them and possible solutions or at the very least a starting point to help fix the problem at hand. “…People of color are disproportionately involved in the criminal justice system, as crime victims, offenders, persons arrested, and persons in prison” (Walker, Spohn & Delone, 2012). It Starts at a Young Age
There is more than one reason behind the racial imbalance in the criminal justice system. Areas that have been evaluated are parental involvement, peer groups, neighborhoods, the individual, and racial discrimination at all levels. It appears that the problem is present in the juvenile justice system as well, something is not working right if these children are not receiving the rehabilitation and or help they need to lead a non-criminal life. Redding & Arigo, 2005 state this about the number of African American juvenile offenders, “…compromising only 15% of the juvenile population…and 57% of the juveniles in state prisons” I decided to discuss juveniles because I found it interesting that they also represented a large number of the criminal offenders in the juvenile justice system in a very similar way that the 25-28 year old African American males do. Several avenues I researched concluded that African American’s have a harder time accessing health facilities such as metal health clinics, where many of the common mental health disorders that criminal offenders suffer from can be treated. “As many as 70 percent of youth in the system are affected with a mental disorder, and one in five suffer from a mental illness so severe as to impair their ability to function as a young person and grow into a responsible adult” (Hammond, 2007). It seems to me that if we can stop the current process at a young age, why wouldn’t we? Poverty and Single Parent Homes
Walker, Spohn & Delone state that 9.4 % of white Americans live in poverty compared to a shocking 25.8% of African American’s that live in poverty. There are thousands of studies that link poverty and poor neighborhoods with criminal activity, both victim and criminal. With a quarter of the African American population living at poverty level it is not surprising...
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