The Color Of Imprisonment
“1 in 36 Hispanic adults are currently incarcerated, as is one in nine black men aged 20 to 34. One in three black men will be imprisoned in his lifetime. Although illegal drug use is equally prevalent among white and black males, a black man is five times more likely to be arrested. A higher percentage of the black population is currently imprisoned in America than in South Africa at the height of apartheid.” (Gordon)
The Justice system in America is one that is contradictory to its name. Instead of helping and rehabilitating its inmates, prisons hinder and marginalize minorities through systematic forms of discrimination and oppression. We are living in a world where man is not created equal. Where remnants of racial segregation, persecution, and unjust systems dictated solely by ones skin color, are still very present in the cracks of daily communications. The justice system in America is one that needs amendment because it targets minority youth in low socio-economic neighborhoods, does little to rehabilitate prisoners, and provides very few resources to help inmates after they are released. This leads to the perpetuation of a cycle that forces minorities back into gangs or prisons, or that may even lead to their death. Although we are given the impression that the justice system in America is one that sees no color, the cold reality is that it does. As long as minorities have lived in America, they have faced different forms of institutional or structural racism. Now, that same structural racism takes form in the American prison system. The justice system in America is one that locks the poor and minorities up with abandon, while it lacks to help them upon their release back into society. A large percentage of US prisoners are put into jail for nonviolent drug crimes, which targets largely Black and Latino males. These men and women who are committed of nonviolent drug crimes come mostly from urban areas, where drug crimes are committed out of desperation and strong economic need (Kurtzleben). Furthermore, the laws that are put into place seem to protect one race of people, while it hinders another. An example of this disparity is the crack/cocaine law. “Although approximately two thirds of crack cocaine users are white or Hispanic, a large percentage of people convicted of possession of crack cocaine in federal courts in 2004 were black” (Kurtzleben). Possession of crack can carry the same sentence as the possession of a quantity of cocaine that is 100 times larger (Kurtzleben). Although crack and cocaine is virtually the same drug, cocaine is a purer, more expensive form of the drug, making it one that attracts upper class Caucasians, while crack is more prevalent in low class minority communities. With the combination of severe and unbalanced drug possession laws, along with the rates of conviction in terms of race, the judicial system has created a huge racial disparity. Another example of the unjust racial disparities in the American Justice System is the Stop and Frisk law that was recently put into place in New York. “Last year, New York City police stopped nearly 700,000 people, 84 percent of them black or Latino. (Only 12 percent of those encounters resulted in arrests)” (Ford). Racial profiling is the practice of targeting individuals for police or security detention based on their race or ethnicity in the belief that certain minority groups are more likely to engage in unlawful behavior. The Stop and Frisk law is a mandated policy that intrinsically deems racial profiling as okay. The Stop and Frisk law allows innocent men and women of color to be targeted as criminals – their voices, rights, and humanity muted for the “better good” of the community. American citizens naively believe in the justice system. We believe it works. We believe it reforms. We blindly assume the Justice System gives inmates the tools and education they need while in prison, to reenter society...
Cited: Gordon, Claire. "Prisons Neither Deter Crime Nor Rehabilitate Criminals." Prisons. Ed. Sylvia Engdahl. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2010.
Kurtzleben, Danielle. "Data Show Racial Disparity in Crack Sentencing." US News. U.S.News & World Report, 03 Aug. 2010. Web. 19 June 2013.
Richard Thompson Ford "Two black Americas." The Wilson Quarterly 36.4 (2012). Opposing Viewpoints In Context. Web. 19 June 2013.
Ross, Jim. "Felons ' challenge: Finding a good job." St. Petersburg Times [St. Petersburg, FL] 21 May 2002: 1. Opposing Viewpoints In Context. Web. 19 June 2013.
Samenow, Stanton E., Dr. "Do Prisons Make Offenders Worse?" Psychology Today. Psychology Today, 9 Apr. 2011. Web. 19 June 2013.
Vedantam, Shankar. "When Crime Pays: Prison Can Teach Some To Be Better Criminals." NPR. NPR, 1 Feb. 2013. Web. 19 June 2013.
Wideman, John Edgar. Brothers and Keepers. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1984. Print.
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