Racial Disparities in America’s Judicial System
The mandatory imprisonment policies written for the judicial system are creating disparity of minority inmate population primarily due to non-violent drug crimes and the unjust mandatory minimum sentencing laws. America’s prisons are the most populated in the world, and they are disproportionately populated by minorities due to the set of mandatory imprisonment policies set in place. Over the past five decades, the disparity between races has widened dramatically according to the National Center on Institutions. In the 1950’s, blacks and Hispanics were the minorities in the prison system, whereas today whites are. Is this due to poverty? I’m sure poverty plays a big role in most cases. Robert Woodson Jr., president of the National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise said the reason young men engage in criminal activity is not just for money, it is to make a name for themselves, to have some expression of worth, even if the expression is self-destructive. Crack cocaine hit the streets in the early 1980’s, infesting the lower income areas. It’s a cheap drug compared to cocaine and easier to come by than some of the higher priced drugs. Is this considered racial disparity? The Sentencing Project in 2007 states that two-thirds of the regular crack users are white and Latino, 82 percent of defendants sentenced in federal court for crack offences are African-American. Criminologist William Chambliss suggest that blacks are more frequently viewed as suspects, pulled over and targeted by raids. I think racial profiling involving law enforcement plays a bigger role in the disparities than people give them credit for. It begins with law enforcement, and ends with the judicial system. In a survey conducted in Volusia County Florida involving traffic stops, it showed 70 percent of those stopped were black or Hispanic according to a Georgetown University Law Professor David Cole. Thus showing how we have accumulated a disparity in America’s prison system. Racial disparity in the judicial system exists when the proportion of a racial or ethnic group within the control of the system is greater than the proportion of such groups in the general population as defined by The Sentencing Project. The incarceration rate in state or federal prison or jail for black men was 4,789 per 100,000, for Hispanic men 1,862 per 100,000, and white men 736 per 100,000 (Sabol, William 2006). Black men comprised 41 percent of the more than 2 million men in custody midyear of 2006, according to The US Department of Justice. As a result of the war on drugs thousands of non-violent drug offenders, most of them black or Hispanic, received mandatory minimum prison sentences for possession of small quantities of illegal drugs. “Police look for crimes in the ghetto, and that’s where they find them” (Chambliss, William). In turn, this caused an even bigger problem of over population in the correctional institutions. “Approximately 80% of the prison overcrowding from 1985 to 1995 is a direct result of the mandatory minimum sentencing policy of the get tough on crime movement” (Drug policy alliance network, 2010) . A non-violent drug crime can carry a minimum mandatory sentencing of fifteen years, whereas a case of leaving the scene of an accident involving a death carries a maximum of five years. If argued by an attorney the drug case can be reduced to a five year minimum mandatory, and the accident involving a death can be reduced to thirty months with no minimum mandatory. These two cases are cases I know of personally. State of Florida verses Fabian Rivera, 2012. Fabian is a family friend, he received a five year mandatory sentence for selling $600.00 worth of cocaine to an undercover police officer. Later to find out he was set up by a high school friend. State of Florida verses Andrew Cleaver, 2012. Andrew was driving under the influence of alcohol when he lost control of his vehicle, killing a friend of...
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