A proposal was developed from a case scenario based on statistics from the US Justice Department in 2003, which reflected the racial disparities in arrests and incarceration of African Americans relative to their White counterparts and other races in the US. As figures used in the study demonstrate, racial profiling in the criminal justice system has far greater implications and creates strongly structured inequality and institutional racism in the US than imagined.
The proposal will explore the role race plays in the criminal justice system and help to understand issues of cultural diversity that majorities may be familiar with but not necessarily their deeper implications on structured inequality and institutional racism.
The topic scenario chosen for this study is the incarceration of more African American men between the age of 25 to 29 years relative to Hispanic and non-Hispanic White men. This case scenario has been chosen to reflect how cultural diversity has affected every aspect of racial relations, including the criminal justice system. From the case study, it is evident that racial profiling is a major source of concern about cultural diversity. The case study helps in understanding the role that race plays in the criminal justice system. It however goes far beyond profiling to show how different racial groups are policed in communities.
The case scenario
The case scenario shows that many African American men between the age of 25 and 29 years old face the criminal justice system in the US than any other race. As these facts demonstrate, the US criminal justice system is race-driven and therefore African American men could be a direct target for the law enforcement officers and severely punished in a way that exceeds any other race.
From the provided data, it is observed that Black men were susceptible to imprisonment relative to their counterparts from other races. One must understand the relevance of racial profiling to comprehend why so many Black men are so much more likely to be in jail. In this case, Black men are more likely to be charged, tried and sentenced than other races for the same offenses (Nunn, 2002). It may also indicate that many Black men do not receive adequate legal help they might require. Police are most likely to “over-police” urban Black neighborhoods than other areas. The criminal justice system, therefore, has focused more on Black men relative to Hispanic or White men. According to Nunn (2002), mass incarceration and disproportionate arrests have always targeted Black men in the so-called war on drugs. This could explain why there are so many Black men in jail relative to other races.
Several factors or variables influence how people get involved in crime. For instance, researchers have shown that many factors associated with crime relate to economic incentives to commit a crime (Omboto, Ondiek, Odera, & Ayugi, 2013). Researchers, for instance, have demonstrated that high rate of unemployment is a single significant factor that increases the rate of crime in a given location (Omboto et al., 2013). In this case, unemployment and poverty have led to high rates of crimes in affected states. Economic factors could influence crime in different ways. Higher-income households may engage in different forms of crime such as property crime relative to murder, robbery and other violent crimes witnessed in low-income neighborhoods.
Demographic factors such as female-headed households reflect breakdown of social ties in society and are usually associated with high rates of violent crimes. Young male adults from these households are most likely to perpetrate criminal acts. In addition, another factor includes population density, particularly in urban areas is most likely to result in high crime rates. In this case, young adults aged between 15 and 24 years, gender, and ethnic groups are significant crime variables.
The level of education also affects the rate of crime rate. Highly educated Americans are less likely to engage in crimes because they have jobs. In addition, drug abuse was also correlated with crime (Omboto et al., 2013).
The criminal justice system influences the outcomes of crime. Nunn (2002) pointed out that mass incarceration was only directed toward Black men in any war against drugs, and they were 8.7 times more likely to be jailed relative to their White counterparts. In fact, many African Americans serve longer jail terms than any other race.
The number of legal professionals and lawmakers varies considerably based on race. In this case, the American Bar Association (ABA) has critical influences. It is noted that the Bar has decided to ensure that a significant number of judges are White and male. For the last 50 years, based on the Bar’s recommendations, far fewer women and individuals from racial and ethnic minorities have been recommended for judicial confirmations. This is a methodical process to ensure that racial minorities remain isolated from influential positions. In addition, other variables also influence rating and are known to increase the chances of bad rating. They include race and gender factors, specifically being African American, Hispanic and being female affected recommendations for judicial consideration.
In 1998, it was observed that the total percentage of all African American and Hispanic lawyers was just 7%. Other minority races were not included in the report. Today, the representation of all minorities has reached 10%. This change has been associated with the significant rise of Asian lawyers. Mostly, the number of African Americans in the law enforcement professions has persistently remained lower relative to other areas.
The racial composition of African Americans in the US is 12%. Another similar percentage includes other minority races and ethnic groups, including Hispanics with 9%. To demonstrate low representation of African Americans among lawmakers, Congress is a good example. It is made up of 87% White. This percentage consists of 85% in the House with even a significantly higher percentage (96%) in the Senate. In addition, many representatives in the Senate are mainly White males. Further, the same trend is also observed in the Congress where White males aged over 50 years are the majority. They came from affluent backgrounds, and they were mainly lawyers or businesspersons. These representations do not reflect the realities based on the US population in general.
To trace the problem of representation in the legal system, some have observed that the problem begins right at the law school admission (Lewin, 2010). For instance, it was observed that law schools increased their admission seats to 3,000 between 1993 and 2008, but the admission of African American and Hispanic law students reduced during the same time (Lewin, 2010). Over the years, the number of Black and Hispanic students applying for law school admission has been relatively constant, if not negligible increment for those decades. Lewin (2010) also provides new data on the rate of rejection for Black applicants (61%) and Hispanic applicants (46%) between 2003 and 2008 relative to White applicants that were only 34%. On this note, it is observed that while the US population has become more diverse, the criminal justice system, as reflected in the number of lawyers and judges, is remaining mainly White.
These data sets show that structured inequality and institutional racism are deeply rooted in the American criminal justice system. In this case, African Americans have been granted low status compared to their White counterparts. The situation has been perpetuated and reinforced in the criminal justice system through various roles and functions assigned to lawyers, judges, lawmakers and even rights to recommendations. Thus, the composition of the criminal justice system reflects institutional racism. A look at the number of African Americans incarcerated shows that this racial minority group makes up a large percentage of inmates. The arrest statistics can reveal critical insights about structured inequality in the US. In fact, the war on drugs depicts the scenario perfectly (Nunn, 2002). They show that racial disparities have been identified in several forms of arrests. In several states, African Americans consisted of the majority (more than 80%) of all the arrests made. The case of Baltimore in 1991 drug arrests was “outstanding because over 86% arrested were Black men” (Nunn, 2002). It starts with a simple profiling, but various data sets reflect that African Americans are arrested, tried and incarcerated in large percentages than any other racial group in the US. The racial disparities in these arrests and subsequent incarceration show how the criminal justice system is designed to ensure institutional racism and promote structured inequality in the US.
Research Goals and Plan
The goal of this research proposal is to demonstrate the role race plays in the criminal justice system and help to understand issues of cultural diversity that majorities may be familiar with but not necessarily their deeper implications on structured inequality and institutional racism.
While some states may have few African Americans, they constitute the majority in prisons. The research would explore how racial profiling, crime policies, acts of law enforcement officers, access to legal aid, and incarceration among others relate to race and the criminal justice system. In this regard, it would be imperative to explore crime data, facts, the US crime history, policies and the race factor in these cases. It will help to determine if there is racial bias in the US criminal justice system.
Available literature will be reviewed to provide insights into existing knowledge. Sources from different databases, including libraries, books, peer-reviewed journal articles, professional opinions, and other relevant Web site sources will be used, but only sources that focus on crime, racial issues and the criminal justice system will be used. In addition, such sources will provide theoretical explanations based on sociological perspectives on crime and criminals.
The proposal will argue that racial bias reflects structured inequality deeply embedded in the US criminal justice system and therefore the system is designed to target specific races and not others.
It is believed that this background will provide an opportunity to develop a strong proposal for the role race plays in the criminal justice system and help to understand issues of cultural diversity that majorities may be familiar with but not necessarily their deeper implications on structured inequality and institutional racism.
Lewin, T. (2010). Law School Admissions Lag Among Minorities. The New York Times. Web.
Nunn, K. B. (2002). Nunn, Race, Crime and the Pool of Surplus Criminality: or Why the ‘War on Drugs’ Was a ‘War on Blacks. 6 Journal of Gender, Race and Justice. Web.
Omboto, J. O., Ondiek, G. O., Odera, O., & Ayugi, M. E. (2013). Factors Influencing Youth Crime and Juvenile Delinquency. International Journal of Research In Social Science, 1(2), 18-21.