Diversity in the Criminal System
What is diversity? Diversity means different things to different people. For some people it is defined as access to opportunities, equal regard in the workforce for all, affirmative action and social tolerance. The concept of diversity should represent, embrace and appreciate values, beliefs and uniqueness of all individuals’ characteristics. The Audit Commission (2004) reports that to promote diversity effectively we need to stop doing the things that create barriers and start doing the things that break them down. While there are positive examples of practice, there still remains a need for further development of new knowledge and skill to work effectively to meet individual need. Butt (2006, p7) assesses the impact of stereotyping, being judgmental and making assumptions about the needs of individuals and communities. The expectation of fundamental fairness and equity in the criminal justice system is a basic assumption held by most American citizens. It is often noted that the search for truth and justice in America takes place within the domain of a judicial system that is immune to bias either in favor of or against individuals and groups on the basis of their race, ethnicity, religion, or gender. As American citizens, it is our right to expect and demand impartiality from our criminal justice system. Unfortunately, substantial research evidence suggests minority groups and the poor in America are subject to disproportionate arrest rates, disproportionate conviction rates, and greater punishment severity. Race and socioeconomic status play a significant role in the outcomes of the many stages within the criminal justice process. An impartial criminal justice system is essential for social cohesion and solidarity within a community because it helps foster public trust and support of the government, its institutions, and its agencies. Alternatively, a judicial system that appears to favor one group of citizens over another will have a devastating effect on the public's trust and support of the government and its agencies. Racial discrimination remains a dominant feature of criminal justice in the United State. More than half of the over 3300 people on death row nationwide are people of color; nearly 42% are African American. Prominent researchers have demonstrated that a defendant is more likely to get the death penalty if the victim is white than if the victim is black. The key decision makers in death penalty cases across the country are almost exclusively white. Despite decades of evidence showing that the administration of the death penalty is permeated with racial bias, courts and legislatures’ refusal to address race in any comprehensive way reveals a fundamental flaw in America’s justice system. America, the most powerful nation in the world, was built on the backs of immigrants who came to build better lives for themselves in a new country many years ago. The different cultural concepts they brought with them are evident in the buildings, food, lifestyles and social climates yet cultural diversity is not representative within the Criminal Justice system. Since America is the most racially diverse democratic nation in the world. Our gains in economic prosperity, however, are not uniformly shared across society, as whole segments of American communities have become marginalized. One fundamental aspect of this marginalization is the disparate treatment of persons of color which occurs incrementally across the entire spectrum of America’s criminal justice system. Racial and ethnic disparity foster public mistrust of the criminal justice system and this impedes our ability to promote public safety (Cole 1999). Racial profiling is of concern for the African-American because it targets African-American males as criminals and it is a prelude to ongoing issues with demoralized characterization perceived by dominant groups, breakdown of two parent homes, unwarranted arrests,...
References: Butt, J (2006) Are we there yet? Identifying the characteristics of social care
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Cole, D. (1999). No Equal Justice: Race and Class in the American Criminal Justice System. New York: The New Press.
Davis, Robert C., Erez, Edna, (1998). Immigrant Populations as Victims: Toward a Multicultural Criminal Justice System, Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice.
Herman, Madelynn (2002) Race and Ethnic BiasTrends: Diversity in the Court: Report on Trends in the State Courts.
The Directory of Minority Judges of the United States, (1997 & 2001) American Bar Association Second &Third Editions.
Ghannam, Jeffrey. (2001) “Making Diversity Work.” ABA Journal, March 2001 The National Consortium of Task Forces and Commissions on Racial and Ethnic Bias in the Courts, Orlando, Florida.
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