The Disparities Among Minority Inmates in the American Prison System

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The Disparities Among Minority Inmates in the American Prison System

Melvin Kenney

ENG 122

Dr. Beckwith-Howard

March 18, 2013

Is the system rigged for the majority, or for those that break the law? Why are minorities more likely to be incarcerated? Is it because of the lack of education and parental support, living in poverty, socially and behaviorally challenged? Race-based differences in individual treatment are some of the most difficult challenges in American society today and these are particularly apparent in the arena of criminal justice. Racial disparity in the criminal justice system is widespread and it threatens to challenge the principle that our criminal justice system is fair, effective and just. According to (Harrison & Beck 2006), there is irrefutable evidence that blacks comprise a disproportionate share of the U.S. prison population. At the end of 2005, there were 1,525,924 persons incarcerated in state and federal prisons; 40 percent of these inmates were black, 35 percent were white, and 20 percent were Hispanic. Blacks, in other words, comprise about 12 percent of the U.S. population but accounts for two-fifths of the prison population. The way in which the police apprehended and punished is one of the great pillars of our democracy. But as we all know that in order for this system to remain viable, the public must have unwavering confidence that at every single stage of the process from the initial investigation of a crime by the police, to the prosecution by the lawyers to the punishment by the Justice system. All individuals in all like circumstances are treated identically, and consistent with the Constitution’s, which guarantees of equal treatment to all under the law. Although African-Americans only make up 12 percent of today’s population in its community, however it accounts for two-fifths of the total that are imprisoned. This is one of the greatest disparities to Caucasian and Hispanics. Why are minorities more likely to be incarcerated? What are the contributing factors? Is the system rigged for Caucasian males, or for those that break the law? Is the real cause for the high number of minorities that are incarcerated due to, social behavior and poverty? African-Americans and Hispanics are differentially involved in criminality—they commit more crimes. Their criminality is tied to the fact that these groups suffer from poverty and unemployment. The strides that minorities have overcome are remarkable, but some inequalities still exist. Data also show that African Americans are considerably more likely than Whites to be victims of violent crime as well. According to (Jones, 2000) the over-representation of minorities, especially African Americans, in U.S. prisons has received much attention in recent years, but the disproportionate representation of minorities is not limited to adult prisons. It is also found among youth confined in secure juvenile facilities. The crimes for which racial minorities and whites are imprisoned also differ; blacks and Hispanics were much more likely than whites to be imprisoned for drug offenses. This disparity is noteworthy since drug offenses constitute a larger share of the growth in the state prison system today. (Bonczar, 2003) states that there also are substantial racial and ethnic differences in the “lifetime likelihood of imprisonment.” If incarceration rates remain the same, one in three black males born in 2004 will go to prison during their lifetime, compared to one in six Hispanic males and one in seventeen white males. Research shows that (Tonry ,2011) minorities are still much more likely than whites to be stopped by police, arrested, prosecuted, convicted, and incarcerated. Tonry’s research shows more than 60percent of the people in prison are now racial and ethnic minorities. For Black males in their thirties, 1 in every 10 is in prison or jail on any given day. These trends...
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