Racial disparity in prisons in America can be conceptualized as a situation where the population of a specific group of people is the most in the criminal justice system as compared to the general population. Prisons in U.S.A are a significant constituent of the criminal justice system. The main function of the American prisons is to protect society from violation of law, to rehabilitate also punish the law breakers in order to assist them to be responsible members of the society. The prisons in the state continue to grow in order to meet the demands of the correctional and the criminal justice system in general. However, the trend in the justice system, especially in the prisons, is characterized by ethnic disparity. This normally compromises the level of justice dispensation. It has been a controversial issue for several decades among the prisons in the state.
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Some individuals seem to defy the concept of existence of disparity in the justice system. They believe that it does not exist. For instance, statistics that were presented by Marc Mauer proved that if the argument that there existed racial discrimination in the prisons, then the extraordinary rise in the American prisons in the past three decades would be explained in six fold increase. This to him would eventually lead to incarceration of two million Americans. For instance, “one in every eight African –American male aged 25-34 year old is an incarceration case. He adds that 32% of the African- American male born are expected to spend at least a term in the state prison if racial disparity would continue.” (Mauer, 2004, p. 79).
From Tabak’s point of view the flourishing of the racial discrimination in the prisons has emanated from a number of factors including; “ineffectiveness in prosecutorial discretion, procedural bars and council, jury selection and venue, juror racism (Tabak, 1999, p. 6). Ineffectiveness in the procedural bars is difficult to prove because the lawyers are ineffectual (Tabak, 1999, p.6). An individual may seem quite hopeless when he/she chooses anyone to try appealing the case concerning an ineffective ruling of the council. The discriminative actions done against the minorities may not be felt most of the times in the justice system. Jury and venue selection are another area where the racial disparity is experienced. The other issue that poses the challenge of racial discrimination in the prisons is the selection of racial jurors. There are remarkably few African- American jurors in the criminal justice system which predisposes the African- American citizens to mistreatment. There is the abuse of power among the prosecutors against the African- American citizens. More whites are usually used in every trial in the criminal justice system. The exclusion of the minority groups in the jury is a significant factor that prevents the accomplishment of an objective, free and impartial judgment (Tabak, 1999, p.6).
The black Americans are commonly known to live in the in the Ghetto regions which are characterized by multiple problems. Some of the problems include the drug addiction. The penalties imposed on the drug trafficking are generally harsher than those imposed on the white collar crimes. The normal law violations which are predominant in the black American residents are normally treated unfairly. In addition, the emphasis of the American society that the black Americans are a menace usually culminates into long term effects to them. Stereotypes from the whites pertaining the black citizens that they are potential menaces in the society has resulted to the African- American being treated with a lot of contempt (Kennedy, 1996,p.20).
According to Kennedy, courts normally authorize the law enforcers to be partial in their handling of the different criminals on the basis of their races. They believe that a different race from the whites is more likely to commit crimes as compared to a white in a similar condition (Kennedy, 1996, p.20). These issues in the long run penetrate deep into perceptions and fear which culminates into racial disparity of the sentencing. Statistics also show that blacks and the Hispanics serve a greater sentence than their counterparts, the whites, even if having committed similar crimes (Silas, 1983, p.1355). Other studies show that the type of the crimes committed also account for the racial disparities in the United States prisons. The prior criminal records of individuals and the seriousness of the crime are significant factors that account for the differences in the sentencing (Chirico, 1991).
The legal justice system needs to be revolutionized in the U.S.A to allow for transparency and accountability in the prisons. The declaration of the equal rights act by one of the former American presidents, Abraham Lincoln, was a pivotal focus in ensuring that all the sectors related to treatment of the citizens would be effected in a way that all people would enjoy equal rights. The rise of a series of equal rights movement has also been sparked off by the denial of justice to the minority group, usually the black- Americans. With regards to these challenges affecting the criminal justice system, some of the plans that can be effected to minimize escalation of racial inequalities in the American prisons are as follows:
The systems of justice need to be balanced with respect to the types of crimes committed. The legal practitioners should be able to know that what works best in one point may not necessarily work better in another situation. The system should therefore develop diversified correctional measures that will ultimately assist in eliminating unfair treatments. Each component of the justice system requires its own unique strategy of dealing with the crimes in respect to the nature and the extent of the offense committed. The specific populations affected by such crimes should not be overemphasized. The criminal justice system should be ready to defend the rights of the offenders by ensuring proper dispensation of the right treatment to them (Nellis et. al., 2008).
The legal justice systems should also acknowledge the existence of the racial disparities in the prisons. This is normally evident in all the processes of the criminal justice systems such as the arrest, parole, institutionalization and others. The acknowledgement of the prevalent racial inequalities in the American prisons will consequently allow the necessary stakeholders to be able to take measures that will be aimed at reducing the disparity in all sections of the legal justice system (Nellis et. al., 2008).
Communication among the key players should also be emphasized. Coordinated ways of dealing with individuals at every stage need to be strengthened. This will discourage cases of unwarranted disparities. The systematic approach to the problems arising will ensure efficiency and effectiveness. Without this, there will be a possibility of gains in one area being offset by the reversals in a different area.
Systematic changes need to be introduced. This is supposed to be in the whole system and not just a section. In this case, transparent and accountable legal practitioners need to be elected into posts that will create a platform for dispensation of justice among the prisoners. The leaders in these positions are expected to address the issues of racial disparities in the legal systems. Proper leadership system should be emphasized also. This measure will ensure that the prevailing racial inequalities are minimized (Nellis et. al., 2008).
From a broad perspective, the prevalence of racial inequalities in the prisons can be perceived as an extension of the racial disparities prevailing in the society. This is through factors such as language, culture, and others. The legal justice leaders are normally brought up in such environments that overemphasize the differences among races. This means that the society has got a mandate of making sure that such racial differences are stamped out. The presence of the overt bias among the justice system will therefore be eliminated. This will be a long term measure of dealing with the racial inequalities in the prisons. The need to deal with the issues of racial disparity wherever and whichever way it exists becomes a prerequisite measure in dealing with the cumulative prevalence of inequalities in all sectors of the society in America.
There is a need to maintain a diverse representative of the legal justice practitioners in America. This will ensure that all racial or ethnic groups are sufficiently represented. The tendency to be lenient on the offenders who are affiliated to ones ethnic or racial group will therefore be minimized. The institutions should recognize the human nature of the judges for instance and consider that they are likely to dispense results which are skewed in favor of their ethnic or racial members. From this perspective, the legitimate requirements of all people within the prisons will be met if racial inequality is abolished.
Emphasizes on training cultural competency can also be a solution. This will apply to both the police force as well as those who participate in making direct decisions to the offenders. The police force normally works in different areas including those where the residents differ in culture. To enable them to adapt to such conditions, it will be the duty of the ministry of security and defense to come up with training programmes that will equip them to adapt more to such conditions. Close review and examination of the offenders alleged crime needs to be done so that the individual is tried on the mistakes that he/she has done. There are a lot of processes that take place between the time the police arrest the person and during the trial period. A critical examination by competent personnel has to be incorporated to ensure justice.
In a nutshell, there is a significant need to address the issue of racial inequality in the American prisons. The short term plans and long term plans need to be applied in order to curb this vice. The measures range from providing cultural training programmes up to ensuring that the justice system is comprised of diverse members of all racial groups in the state. This will ensure that the inequality will be minimized.
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