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Free «Racial Disparities in Sentencing» Essay Sample

For years, one of the most disputable aspects of researching in American criminal justice has dealt with the cases of ethnic minorities committing crimes in terms of racial disparities exemplification. Statistically, the rates of such crimes tend to be higher than the figure of real representation in the community. Besides, injustice occurs in handing out arrests, namely the Whites are policed less for committing the same crime. Penalties are regarded to be harsher within the cases of ethnic minorities and the crimes involving drug possession are usually focused on the situations with the minority groups. Therefore, these and other disparities concerning criminal justice have determined the relevant agent of our major aim formulating, i.e. analyzing the consequences of discriminatory sentencing within the African American offenders.

The topic of our research is racial disparities in sentencing of African Americans. The subject of our study is presented through the phenomenon of racial discriminatory sentencing, namely with the help of the instance of the crime rate committed by African American representatives. The object of our study is the statistical observations concerning ‘black’ violation of the law in comparison with the ‘white contribution’ to this field and factors, which predetermine the current disputable situation of the race discrimination in the prison system. Thus, the sphere of our investigations includes the analysis of historical failures, racial recordings, and legal practices and procedures of both Whites and Blacks from the angle of criminal justice.



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In general, the notion of racial discriminatory sentencing has been quite extensively researched in the judicial system. However, the preliminary research of the existing scope of literature concerning the issue of racial discrimination has revealed a distinct lack of systematized data due to the motifs and reasons of harsh actions. Thus, we are going to ascertain this ambiguous issue. There is a significant amount of sources that are taking into account the aspects of racial discriminatory phenomenon proper, though leaving behind the explanation of the causes which predetermine the racial disparities in the prison system. Besides, there is no concrete distinction between the discrimination markers concerning the African Americans, Latino and Hispanic Americans, American Indians and Alaska Natives, Asians, and Native Hawaiians. Most scholars differentiate between Whites and the other groups of ethnic minorities.

Although our research focuses on the studying the phenomenon of discriminatory sentencing within the African American offenders, we are going to summarize and organize the existing ethnic minorities groups according to the rates readability and further research the rights discrimination of African Americans as the major group. Literature review, statistical data, and deep analysis of the examined procedures and profiles of African American offenders determine and support our major aim of research.

In terms of methodology, our research is regarded to be analyzed from the perspective of the quantity and quality. Quantitative methods will comprise the statistical data with figures which describe the disproportionation in terms of racial disparity sentencing. Therefore, it is obvious to distinguish the statistical method with its quantitative nature. Qualitative methods will deal with the distinct analysis of the gathered data, namely with the racial profiles, and legal practices and procedures of both Whites and Blacks.

Free’s 2003 study includes data concerning injustice in case with teenagers who were sentenced to juvenile prison due to the racial belonging. The figure of African American youths without previous sentence records is 6 times bigger than in the same situation with white youths. The disparities in adult African American cases occur in the harsher penalties than the white representatives are subject to. The following figures, gathered on the basis of Los Angeles County’s evidence, prove the relevant gap in criminal justice due to the fact that African Americans are being discriminated. “African Americans comprise 10 percent of the general population, they constituted 30.5 percent of the felony cases and 57.3 percent of the [third-strike] cases. Conversely, whites, who represent 36.6 percent of the general population, accounted for only 19.7 percent of the felony cases and only 12.6 percent of the thirdstrike cases” (Free, p.2).

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According to Civiletti’s viewpoint, the discriminatory sentencing is viewed through the prism of the criminal justice and is exemplified by the following instance: the murderer of a white human is more prone to get the capital punishment than the murderer of a black one. Thus, Congress is working on the issues concerning equal justice for all the citizens impartially to their race belonging. Another point of racial disparity is proved to be relevant in the prison surrounding. Namely, once African Americans are sentenced and locked up, they are more likely to remain incarcerated for the longer period of time than whites (Civiletti).

Spohn has reviewed a plenty of researches concerning sentencing and ethnicity dichotomy and thus found out that ethnicity plays a significant role in American criminal justice. Generally, she made research in the cases of African American and Hispanic minority groups that had become offenders and were prone to be sentenced if they obtain such features as being young, male and without steady occupation in the majority of cases on the contrary with the situation of the white criminals. Spohn describes different types of ethnic rights violation. For instance, when males of African American descent having been priory convicted and gone through harsh sentence are considered to be recidivists, the white counterparts who served the community in consequence of penalty for similar crime are regarded as rehabilitated. The discrimination occurs in the situation with African American and Hispanic female representatives who are perceived due to the stereotypical patterns of feminine behavior (Spohn).

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Nealy provides with the following statistical data: “there are an estimated 1.5 million Black men in prison and another 3.5 million on probation. Black males make up more than 70 percent of the total prison population, even though they make up only 6 percent of the U.S. population” (Nealy).

According to Roach’s investigations, Blacks are treated as the poor minorities in the frames of the criminal justice system that is a significant proof of the unchangeable situation of racial and class inequality. The researcher presents a set of data concerning two minority groups, i.e. African American and Latinos. Thus, there is an assumption that racial bias in the structure of criminal justice system are regarded to be the major reason of the disproportionate imprisonment due to its inmates, namely African American and Latino representatives. “The race and social position of the person has a huge bearing on the outcome of their experience in the criminal justice system” (). Regardless of the heated debates arisen around bias theory, the new elected officials are trying to fight with the processes of jail overcrowding and overwhelmed court structure. Roach claims that race and class issues play a significant role in the criminal justice system. Thus, a bunch of scholars have decided to dedicate their professions and lives to criminal justice reform designing and maintaining afterwards. Mainly, this reform comprised the questions of death penalty in terms of racial disparities, sentencing reform, and drug obsession treatment. “Black death-row convicts in Illinois to win their freedom. As a result of investigative work by a crusading Northwestern University faculty member and his students, the state of Illinois placed a moratorium on inmate executions in 2000” (Roach).

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In a nutshell, a lesson of history has been training the judges and attorneys, and the whole nation to practice and alter the law due to the major principle in the justice structure that is equality under the law for all people, no matter what race they belong to. Obviously, the mass media must report on the issues concerning existing racism, especially in the prison system. However, the limited movement on the criminal justice reform mentioned above has provoked heated debates concerning race and class issues. Therefore, the theme is considered to be topical and there are a lot of questions left to further investigations.


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