Racism in the Criminal Justice System

When looking at the statistics of arrests, incarcerations, and prison populations, there is a disproportionate amount of African Americans and other people of color represented compared to the statistics of white Americans in the criminal justice system. While these statistics reinforce stereotypes about African Americans as criminals, they exist only because hundreds of years of ideologies of superiority and systemic discrimination within the criminal justice system.

Academic Articles

"Crimes Commission," by Jelani Cobb

Here, Jelani Cobb's perspective gives an insight into the pattern of discrimination by politicians in historical cases of police brutality and violence against people of color. Cobb's description of events reveals an interesting point; When politicians dismiss cases of police violence against people of color, this sets a precedent to others that people of color are not worth a competent trail process. In order to validate racist worldviews, politicians have relied on negative stereotypes to justify draconian police tactics and punishment. The sentiments of politicians echo out into the rest of society, which can influence others to hold on to stereotypes and misconceptions of people of color just as their authority figures do.

"African Americans and The Criminal Justice System," a study by Phyllis Gray-Ray, Melvin C. Ray, Sandra Rutland and Shanon Turner

This sociological study looks at how, "in the United States, the criminal justice system's main objective is to provide equal justice for all citizens without discrimination due to class, sex, age, ethnic origin, or race. However, it is within the American criminal justice system that such biases exists in the most disturbing forms," and ultimately focus on the struggle the adult black individuals, as well as minors, deal with in the American justice system.

"Why Whites Favor Spending More Money to Fight Crime: The Role of Racial Prejudice," by Steven Barkan/Steven Cohn

This article looks at how the past few decades of a "get tough" approach to crime control in this country has affected how American's view criminality, punishment, and white prejudice. Looking at things from a sociological conflict perspective, Barkan and Cohn take a look at how the skyrocketing increase in numbers of prison inmates and burgeoning criminal justice spending has affected white prejudice and created a criminal justice system that targets people of color. From a conflict perspective, the increase in punitive punishment, targeted towards African Americans, is used as a means for those in the dominant social classes to, "maintain or enhance their privileged positions". Because of the influence those in the dominant social classes have on law and other social institutions, "dominant status groups develop ideologies asserting the social deficiencies of subordinate status groups. They then use these ideologies to justify their subordination", and thus construct a justice system where African Americans and other people of color are perceived to belong and white Americans who hold on to these perceptions pay more to keep them there.


Popular Press

"The American Justice System is Not Broken," by Albert Burneko

Burneko takes a look at the criminal justice system, not from the perspective of a broken system that belittles justice for people of color, but as a system that works, albeit in a biased and insular manner, to benefit those who are part of the dominating white culture.

"The Top 10 Most Startling Facts About People of Color and Criminal Justice in the United States," by Sophia Kerby

The statistics depicted here by Sophia Kerby are representative of the problem between people of color and the American criminal justice system. It is these statistics that on one hand shines a light on the disparity of treatment that people of color face in America, but also serves as information that may form or solidify the concept of African Americans and other people of color, as violent criminals, as drug users, instead of the addressing the fact that there is systemic racism of people of color at multiple levels within the criminal justice system. Also, that people of color are unjustly persecuted by police and policies. People of color are overrepresented in the criminal justice system not because they are a people who commit crimes at a higher rate, but rather are victims of a system that is more suspicious of their color and monitors them more closely.