Systemic Racism & The Criminal Justice System

Muncie, Indiana Blog– In an ideal society, everyone is treated fairly with decency and respect. A general rule is to treat others with the same respect and kindness you would like to be treated with. The problem is when people only seem to remember this rule when the latter end applies to them.

The golden rule seems to get tossed out and forgotten about in the case of racism. Active racism is a blatantly hypocritical stance on this viewpoint. Passive racism, however, is ambiguous in immediate racial discrimination, but nonetheless does not allow for the respectful treatment of every human. A person who does not take it upon themselves or refuses to understand the institutionalized racism of America is further condoning it.

Perhaps the biggest examples of institutional racism can be found in the criminal justice system. Every branch has been scrutinized at large for its racial prejudices and tendencies toward minorities — especially black people. Law enforcement, the court system, and the corrections system have implemented policies and practices designed to target and disadvantage people of color. It may be shocking to learn just how racist the criminal justice system can be.

Law Enforcement

Police discrimination and racism are being reported and recorded. Showing more and more to be a factor throughout the whole process from police stops to arrests. Racial profiling is a method of policing, whether pulling over a car or stopping a person on the street, in which the sole reason to suspect someone is their race. There are major civil rights concerns, as the practice targets black and Hispanic people to be suspected of a crime based solely on the grounds of their race and ethnicity.  

If the shooting statistics and police brutality in America don’t raise your eyebrows, you may be a little too comfortable. If the fact that police are shooting and killing unarmed black people at an alarming rate doesn’t make you angry and frustrated, you may be passively — or actively — racist. It is not a policeman’s job to be judge, jury, and executioner when questioning a suspect; their job is to arrest a suspect on reasonable grounds and leave it up to a fair trial for sentencing. A trial in which a minority often finds unfair.

The Court System

The court system has long been said to be biased. Politicians behind the War on Drugs showed their racism with sentences for crack cocaine — a form of cocaine predominantly used by black people — were, and still are, notably longer than the sentence for powdered cocaine — predominantly used by whites. African Americans are twice as likely to receive the mandatory minimum sentence for committing the same crime as a white person. This disparity alone shows the racist proclivities of the criminal justice system.

Once standing trial, a minority usually cannot pay for a lawyer, so a public defender is implemented for the trial. Public defenders and public administrators do critical work; however, they are so over-encumbered with caseloads from the arrests of people who typically need public defenders (i.e. black people), they cannot possibly give the time, care or attention to a case a private lawyer can. Furthermore, while awaiting trial, African Americans are more likely to wait in jail than a white person. And if they are sentenced to jail or prison, they will face more adversity.

The Corrections System

Most anyone can agree that solitary confinement is cruel and inhumane. Once in a corrections facility, a minority will be more likely to receive this disciplinary action than a white person. To make matters worse, they’ll receive fewer mental health services to help cope with the degrading punishment. On top is this, there is a higher rate of staff assault and death in prison for an African American.

When a black person makes it out of the corrections facility, life only continues to get harder. There is a stigma against hiring people with a criminal record — whether actually guilty or not — so trying to earn an income can become extremely difficult for an African American after jail or prison. In an attempt to block any change, new policies, or progress toward racial discrimination in the criminal justice system; depending on which state you live in, felons have their voting rights taken away while incarcerated, on probation, or on parole. Probation and parole being another way to disenfranchise black people after incarceration.

An alarmingly disproportionate amount of African Americans and people of color are discriminated against in ways that affect their lives significantly. Standards are severely rigged against black people in the criminal justice system, a system that should be implemented fairly for all. Such systemic racism shouldn’t be allowed to determine the course of anyone’s life.

If you haven’t really seen light shed on this subject, and you are white, you are not racist. However, a person is actively racist if they agree and want to further the injustices in the criminal justice system. One might also be passively racist if they have knowledge of this subject and chose not to do anything about the injustices happening not only in the criminal justice system but the injustices that racism perpetuates on minorities in all forms.      

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Brooke Faulkner is a mother of two and wilderness enthusiast. When she's not writing, she can usually be found zipping around the mountains on her ATV.

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