Racism in Criminal Justice Field


Racismin Criminal Justice Field


Racism in the Criminal Justice Field

In 2012, Trayvon Martin was shot by George Zimmerman in Florida. Thepolice officer judged the 17-year-old high school student assuspicious since Trayvon was adorning a hoodie. Despite the fact thatthe boy was unarmed, he was killed on the spot under the premise ofself-defense (Fasching-Varner, Reynolds, Albert, &amp Latrice,2014). In 2014, Michael Brown, 18, was shot and killed by DarrenWilson in Ferguson, Missouri despite holding his arms aloft in totalsurrender. Michael was unarmed when he was murdered in cold blood(Cook, 2014). Tamir Rice, 12, was also fatally shot by a policeofficer in Cleveland, Ohio although he carried a toy gun. An uproararose among the black community after these incidents as peoplelamented the evils of racial profiling (Swaine, Laughland, Lartey, &ampMcCarthy, 2015). The purpose of this paper is to examine the evidencefor the incidence of racism in the criminal justice system along withprobable methods of eradicating such racism.

Proof of Racism

Many examples have been cited to prove the existence of racism in theAmerican criminal justice system. Several incidents highlight thefact that blacks are customarily targeted and inflicted withdisproportionate punishments. For example, although blacks constitute12.6% of the total population, a whopping 37.1% of inmates arecolored. Contrariwise, although whites comprise 72.4% of the totalpopulation, they only make up 59.5% of the prisoners. Additionally,42% of the convicts on death row are African American (Ghandnoosh,2015). Also, blacks who killed whites were handed death sentencesseven times longer than whites who killed blacks. 29.33% of gunhomicides between a white perpetrator and a black victim werejustified. On the other hand, only 2.88% of homicides between a blackassailant and a white victim were justified (Cook, 2014).

Notably, the percentage of African Americans in prison has increasedduring the period 1960-2010. In 1960, there were 1,313 black men and262 white men behind bars. In 2010, there were 4,347 blacks comparedto 678 whites. The number of incarcerated black women increased from76 to 260 during 1960-2010 while that of white women increased from11 to 91 over the same period (Arrest Records.com). Regrettably,similar racial trends are reflected in children populations. Forexample, blacks represent 58% of youths in state prisons, 46% ofyouths in criminal courts, 44% of detained youths, and 26% ofjuvenile arrests (Quigley, 2010).

Furthermore, 1 in 18 black women is likely to experienceincarceration during their lifetime while 1 in 111 white women face asimilar threat. On the other hand, 1 in 3 black men risks jail timein comparison to 4 in 17 white men. Blacks represent 63% of personsexonerated by modern methods of DNA testing (Arrest Records.com).Such a statistic indicates that more blacks than whites arewrongfully accused, arrested, and convicted. African Americansreceive 10% harsher or longer sentences than whites convicted of thesame crime (Arrest Records.com). For example, whites serve an averageof 79 months for violent felonies while blacks serve 107 months.Blacks would serve 36 months for weapon felonies while whites wouldserve 23 months. In total, blacks serve 18 more months than whites.During 2008-2009, Federal courts handed an average of 90 months forblacks and 55 months for whites (Arrest Records.com).

Additionally, bail amounts differ between blacks and whites held forthe same crime. As for public order, blacks pay $10,000 more thanwhites to earn their freedom. Other disparities in bail amountsinclude $13,000 for drug offenses, $7,000 for violent felonies, and$5,500 for property theft (Arrest Records.com). While 53% of whitesmake bail, only 40% of African Americans can post bail. 20% of whitesreceived the benefit of sentence diversion while 14% of blacksbenefited from such provisions. In 2013, 53% of the civilianssubjected under the New York Police Department’s Stop and Friskinitiative were blacks. By comparison, only 11% were whites. AfricanAmericans also experience racism in traffic misdemeanors (ArrestRecords.com). For example, in Los Angeles, a black driver is 166%more likely to be ordered out of the vehicle, 127% more likely to befrisked, and 76% more likely to be asked for a consensual search. Inaddition, African Americans are 81% more likely to experiencenonconsensual search and 29% more likely to be arrested (ArrestRecords.com).

Furthermore, court proceedings have discriminated against the blacks.For example, prosecutors handed ‘interest of justice’ dismissalsto 6% of white offenders as compared to 4% of blacks. Whitedefendants with no previous crimes had a 33% likelihood of having thecharge downgraded to an infraction or misdemeanor. On the other hand,blacks had a 25% chance of achieving the same benefit (ArrestRecords.com). A jury pool without any blacks convicted 81% of blacksand 66% of whites. However, a jury with one or more blacks convicteda fairly level 71% of blacks and 73% of whites (Cook, 2014).

Although blacks represent 12% of drug users, they comprised 38% ofthose arrested and 59% of those incarcerated for drug offenses. In2010, some states such as Kentucky, Nebraska, South Dakota,Pennsylvania, Iowa, District of Columbia, Minnesota, Wisconsin, andIllinois had more blacks than whites arrested for marijuanapossession (Ghandnoosh, 2015). National rates of arrests showed that716 blacks per 1000,000 were apprehended while only 192 whites per100,000 were arrested. Black males between the ages of 15 and 34comprise of 2% of the American population. However, they consist ofover 15% of the 1,134 deaths at the hands of police during 2015(Swaine et al., 2015). In fact, one in every 65 deaths of a youngAfrican American is usually perpetrated by a law enforcement officer.During 2015, blacks were slain at twice the rates of whites (Swaineet al., 2015). Moreover, about 25% of the blacks killed did notpossess a firearm while only 17% of whites were unarmed. In 2015, atleast one death in each state and the D.C. was caused by police(Swaine et al., 2015).

Granted, some figures appear to dispute the fact that systemic racismpermeates the American criminal justice system. For example, duringthe period 2000-2009, conviction rates in state and Federal prisonsdeclined 30.7% for African American women and 9.8% for black men.During the same period, the incarceration ratio between black andwhite women reduced by 53%. In comparison, a 16% decline was seen inthe proportion of men during 2000-2009 (Ghandnoosh, 2015).Nevertheless, in Ferguson, Missouri, African Americans are friskedand arrested more than whites despite the fact that whites have moredealings with contraband (Cook, 2014). A similar disparity is alsoseen in Boston where blacks account for over 60% of interrogationsand searches yet their population is less than 25% (Cook, 2014). Research statistics from the Sentencing Project highlight that 77.4%of inmates in Maryland are blacks serving life sentences. Bycomparison, the figure amounts to 72% in Georgia and 71.5% inMississippi (Ghandnoosh, 2015).

Howto Eradicate Racism in the Criminal Justice Field

Several measures can be taken to reduce the incidence of racism incriminal justice. For example, dashboard cameras and body camerasshould be used extensively to observe the conduct of police officersduring arrests (Hall, 2015). In this regard, members of lawenforcement should be investigated if they deactivate their cameraswithout prior warning. Moreover, footage from the cameras should bestored and periodically reviewed when complaints arise concerning aparticular officer. White officers will be more conscientious intheir dealings with African Americans.

Besides, the community policing model should be reformed to takeadvantage of the advancements in technology. Citizens should have anactive role in ensuring the safety and security of theirneighborhoods. Implementation of community policing will lessen theburden on police officers and lead to fewer incidents of brutality(Hall, 2015). It is also crucial to conduct an extensive revision ofthe policies that grant police members the right to use deadly force.A review board should be placed on standby to investigate instancesof police brutality against blacks. Each bullet and tear gas canistershould be accounted for so as to discourage the misuse of power.

Additionally, it is important to retrain police officers in harmonywith modern methods of civilian response (Hall, 2015). Personaltendencies may lead an officer to overreact in a particularsituation. Some events could also be handled in a better way so as toprevent unnecessary escalation. The historical travesties suffered byblacks at the hands of police may make them more distrusting (Cook,2014). In this respect, an African American may flee from a whiteofficer despite being guiltless. It may be that some law enforcementofficers judge particular confrontations using their experience.Therefore, retraining will help police to develop new perspectives ofdealing with suspected criminals.

Besides, police hiring standards need constant review and revision toraise the quality of safety and security. Some officers have beenensnared by the trappings of power such that they seize theopportunity to perpetrate crimes. Sadly, some have been known toaccept bribes so as to overlook traffic offenses and other felonies(Hall, 2015). Many drug barons and pimps have convinced honorableofficers to undermine their integrity through regular handouts. Inreturn, such officers have provided advance warnings during raids andchecks. Police recruits that seem mentally unstable or temperamentalshould be discontinued from the program (Hall, 2015). In addition,any racist tendencies or prejudices should be used as grounds fordismissal.

Moreover, an independent and objective body should be set up toconduct thorough investigations of alleged and proven policemisconduct. All promotions and demotions within the force must alsobe evaluated by the independent committee of prosecutors (Hall,2015). Officers with past records of misconduct should be demotedupon review. Rank promotions should be exclusively limited to theofficers with unblemished records. In some instances, confrontationsbetween police and African Americans occur when the officer fails tostate his identity. Under such circumstances, a black person may feeljustified to resist arrest while the officer feels disrespected.Consequently, it should be mandatory for law enforcement personnel toidentify themselves before proceeding to make an arrest.

Furthermore, incidents of lethal force and fatality must be auditedto reduce the likelihood of extra-judicial killings. The authoritiesshould consider formulating a national database where citizens canlaunch complaints documenting police mistreatment (Hall, 2015). Detailed accounts should be accompanied by credible evidence to limitthe occurrence of inconsistencies and false testimonies. Descriptionof physical characteristics should be enforced with details such asthe officer’s badge number. Operating such a system will motivatepolice to exercise extraordinary caution when dealing with AfricanAmericans. The legislature should intervene and support the creationof a national law that not only condemns but also punishes racialprofiling (Hall, 2015). Furthermore, police postings should be madeafter racial consideration. In this regard, a community withpredominantly black residents should have mainly black officers. Sucha policy change would rectify the situation in many counties wherepolice were mostly white yet black residents were more than whites.


Indeed, racism has been a systemic feature of the American criminaljustice system. The high-profile killings of Trayvon Martin andMichael Brown in 2012 and 2014 respectively attracted publicattention on racism in law enforcement. In virtually all areas,African Americans have experienced more stops, searches, arrests, andconvictions. Several measures can be used to combat the regularity ofracism in the criminal justice field. For example, officers can befitted with body and dashboard cameras to document their interactionswith civilians. Besides, hiring standards should be reviewed toensure that officers with the right aptitude and temperament arehired. Also, an independent committee of prosecutors should be taskedwith evaluating cases of police misconduct and makingrecommendations. Police officers must be retrained and reassigned toareas where they can be more effective in their duties.


Cook, L. (2014, Dec. 11). No, Justice is Not Colorblind. U.S.News. Retrieved fromhttp://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/data-mine/2014/12/11/no-justice-is-not-colorblind

Fasching-Varner, K. J., Reynolds, R. E., Albert, K., &amp Latrice,L. (2014). Trayvon Martin, race, and American justice: Writingwrong. Boston, Mass.: Sense.

Ghandnoosh, N. (2015). Black lives matter: Eliminating racialinequity in the criminal justice system. Washington, D.C.: TheSentencing Project.

Hall, R. E. (2015). Anti-Racist Racism as a Judicial Decree: Racismin the Twenty-First Century. Journal of African American Studies,19(3), 319-328.

Infographic: Racism in the Criminal Justice System. ArrestRecords.com. Retrieved fromhttp://www.arrestrecords.com/infographic-racism-in-the-criminal-justice-system/

Swaine, J., Laughland, O., Lartey, J., &amp McCarthy, C. (2015, Dec.31). Young black men killed by US police at highest rate in year of1,134 deaths. The Guardian. Retrieved fromhttps://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/dec/31/the-counted-police-killings-2015-young-black-men

Quigley, B. (2010, Jul. 26). Fourteen Examples of Racism in CriminalJustice System. The Huffington Post. Retrieved fromhttp://www.huffingtonpost.com/bill-quigley/fourteen-examples-of-raci_b_658947.html