The Criminal Justice System and the Issue of Racism in the US
The US is one country where the issue of race is a very hot one. This is not something that started yesterday, but it is something that has been there since antiquity. Many steps have, for years, been made to end the issue of racism. These steps have seen some suffer and even die. A good example is the civil rights icon Martin Luther King, who was killed in his pursuit for the black minority in the US to get civil rights. The steps taken to end racism in all social spheres have indeed been tremendous as in the year 2008, change was witnessed in the US. This was because the first African American president was elected in the history of the country. To get to that level, indeed, that was a major milestone in both the history and democracy of the US. It demonstrated to the world that the war against racism had taken a different turn, which was very positive. However, despite such progress, there are still issues of racism in the US. These are those that the common minority black citizen faces. These acts of racism have been furthered by the criminal justice system in the US. With that backdrop, this paper’s chief argument is that the criminal justice system in the US is the weak link in the fight against racism.
Before delving into this kind of a discussion, it is important to lay out what constitutes the criminal justice system in the US. This is a system that, from a broad perspective, deals with the issue of crimes. It consists of the police department, the court system, and the correctional institutions, which are popularly known as the prison system (Balko, 2018). The chief argument of this discussion is that the aforementioned institutions are the ones that have, in a very large way, continued the issue of racism in the US despite the many milestones that have been made in other sectors, to see to it that this vice is no longer there. The question that begs for anyone reading this paper is how, have these institutions furthered the issue of race in the US? The ensuing parts will provide detailed explanations to support the main argument that this paper makes.
To start with, I will start with the police department. The police are the people that have been tasked in the society, to maintain law and order. This is not an ordinary calling because most of them risk their lives to ensure that the greater majority is safe. However there are many instances where the police have acted racially in discharging their duties. A good example is how the police will treat an offender who is black and how they will treat an offender who is white (Chang et al. 2019). Cases have been recorded where a white person driving carelessly is not booked while a black person who maybe has not done anything wrong is stopped and his car searched. This is despite the law being very clear that the police must only have a reasonable cause in order for them to interfere with person’s privacy when they do the search of the cars. Many blacks have been shot dead by the police when they are pulled over. This has happened all in then name that the police officer thought that the black person wad drawing a gun. Such cases are never reported when the person in question is of the white race. Additionally, black people who are pulled over by the police are easily taken to the station and many even spend a day or two there. This is not something that would happen in the case of a white person 9Chang et al. 2019). The same incidents are also normally reported when the person being handled by the police is Latino or even Hispanic.
The above discussion captures the police department only to the extent that they deal with pulling over people. Switching gears, there is the aspect of arrest and shootings. Police officers will brutally treat a black person who appears to have resisted arrest. The recent case of George Floyd is a classic example that the despicable acts of racism is being furthered by the men in uniform. Even if Floyd was wrong, the question was did he deserve to die that way? Was his rights as a US citizen halted simply because he was found on the wrong? These are questions that lead anyone to the fact that if he were a white person then those officers would have simply escorted him to the back seat of the car and taken him to the station. However, because he was black, he was treated that way. This strongly supports the main argument that this paper makes.
The case of George Floyd as it is to be note, was not the only case this year. It was just that case where many people especially the black minority got fed up with what they were witnessing daily. There was the case of Breonna Taylor who was short eight times as the police went to where she was to carry out a search. The question is why shoot someone who is not even armed ? What these police officers who shoot and kill the black people say is that they were endangered and responded by shooting (Boyd, et al. 2020). Why is it that such cases where these officers could also be endangered are never reported when the alleged criminal is a white person? Atatiana Jefferson is another person killed by the police, she had not done anything. There are still many other killings done by the police which have no clear answer but can only be answered by one thing. That all the killings and the brutal treatment of blacks and other people from the minority class is race based.
The other institution in the criminal justice system is the court system. Courts are very crucial in matters involving crime. This is because they are the ones that determine ones case hence deciding whether the person is acquitted or should go to the prisons department, as a way of punishment. Before delving into how the courts have furthered the issue of race, it is worthy to note that they work hand in hand with the corrections department both in doing the right thing for the American people and also when it comes to furthering the issue of race.
.How then does the court system work in as far as this discussion is concerned. The court system will conduct the trail process and then render a verdict. Generally, the courts have always sentenced to jail the black people who have been caught on the wrong side of the law. One would argue and say that the independence of judges is something that is truly functional in the American justice system (Van Cleeve et al. 2015). This idea of independence is pegged on the notion that a judge decision should never be questioned. It offers the one basic solution to aggrieved parties in the event that they are not satisfied by a decision of the judge. This solution is usually to appeal. However, despite many appeals, the prison population is largely made up of the minorities in and blacks, are the ones that lead the numbers. Is this by design or by coincidence? The answer to this is something that can be answered by stating that the courts act racially and hence, end up locking many blacks as compared to the whites.
The first illustration to support the argument above, is based on the story of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His book, “Live from Death Row,” is one where he details how the US criminal justice system is a sham especially for minorities like blacks (Moats, 2019). He gives an encounter of how he was framed by officers for exposing their illegal and corrupt acts. He then was taken to court and this is where I would want to draw examples in terms of supporting the thesis statement based on the aspect of the court system, acting as a racial weapon. The court process was jot fair in so many ways as he details. The people that he thought would testify on his behalf had been bribed and testified against him. He was sentenced to death, something which he says that if he were white person, he would maybe have been given a life in prison but the death penalty. As this juncture we can already see how the corrections department is coming in and aiding the race issue.
Jamal notes that as he was waiting for his day of execution he noted that the majority of the people who were serving on the death row, were blacks. To him, and just to again reinforce the thesis statement, prisons were mainly made up of the black people. The few white individuals who were in orison with him were people who had committed very serious offences but since judges have discretion and most of them are white, the white offenders serve under life imprisonment. Jamal says that it is even very had for black person to get a parole, and that is also one of the reason why prisons in the US are congested with black people. The idea here is that the courts systems are using the prisons as the end game in the racial war.
The other thing that to show that the court system is biased against blacks and works closely with the corrections department in that regard is getting a hearing. This is especially when one is under the death row and is seeking to appeal against the decision so that he or she can be put on another lighter punishment and not death row. For a black person, this is an arduous task. Before such case can be heard, it can even take years. As one waits his time to be executed also nears (Hubert et al. 2020). Many black people end up not being heard and being executed.
Finally, the argument shifts to the prisons department. Life in prison is generally not the best. Many writing document that prisons are not the correctional centres that they are usually called or the way they have always been imagined (Blumstein, 2015). With the tough conditions the majority of the people who experience that hardship are the black people. Statics show that for a black person and a white person who engage in crimes to do with drugs, the black person is likely to go to prison six times higher than the white person. This is unfortunate for the black people. It goes to just show that maybe prisons are designed for the black people. The people who also get acquitted or pardoned are mostly whites.
This paper has tried to indeed support the idea that the criminal justice department is the one that is still furthering the race issue. I still maintain that stand but it is prudent to look at a possible counter argument, which in itself would still, be challenged. Someone else might look at this issue and state that the department I simply acting as per the law. This is a broad perspective that would apply mainly to judges. As I mentioned the decision by judges is usually protected under the law where the only time the decision can be questioned is when there is an appeal. As regards police, many have stated that black people who live in the hoods are very defiant to laws as they are the ones who hold illegal guns and are always trigger happy. However, the question is the killings that have happened, did those black people have guns Floyd did not have a gun, Taylor and many more others did not have guns. Indeed many black people from the hood have guns that are illegal, but that still does not qualify as reason to treat every black offender as a person holding a gun and ready to shoot an officer of the law.
As per the thesis statement, this paper has argued that the criminal justice system is the weak link in the fight against racism in the US. This is a position that many would not agree with just in the same way that many such as myself, would agree with. Indeed my argument as has been demonstrated in the forgoing discussions is sound as it is premised on facts and evidence that has been reported. Maybe some other person would have a divergent view as I have also tried to capture in the last bit of the discussion. However, the in thing is that my position is still weighty in the issue of racism in the US. It is worthy to note that there are still many more supporting arguments, which touch in the criminal justice system that would still provide evidence to back up my stand. This therefore means that this debate is very rich in terms of resources and also generally in terms of the deliberations that could be made further, besides those made in this work. Hence, such a discussion does not end here, but is something which is still subject to more and more deliberations, based on available, but sound evidence.
Boyd, R. W., Lindo, E. G., Weeks, L. D., & McLemore, M. R. (2020). On racism: a new standard for publishing on racial health inequities. Health Affairs Blog, 10.
Balko, R. (2018). There’s overwhelming evidence that the criminal-justice system is racist. Here’s the proof. The Washington Post, 18.
Blumstein, A. (2015). Racial disproportionality in prison. In Race and social problems (pp. 187-193). Springer, New York, NY.
Chang, K. F. S. H. (2019). When may police kill in self-defence? A special moral obligations argument against moral parity (Doctoral dissertation, Virginia Tech).
Hübert, R., & Little, A. T. (2020). A Behavioral Theory of Discrimination in Policing.
Moats, B. (2019). Lives From Death Row: Common Sinners and Current Pasts. Anthurium, 15(2).
Van Cleve, N. G., & Mayes, L. (2015). Criminal justice through “colorblind” lenses: A call to examine the mutual constitution of race and criminal justice. Law & Social Inquiry, 40(2), 406-432.
The Criminal Justice System and the Issue of Racism in the US