RACISM IN THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM
Racism is when someone treats the other differently or unfairly because of their color or culture. The individual treated differently, therefore, can be forced to experience prejudice when the decision to treat him/her differently when an opinion is made towards him/her without the reason, knowledge or thought and only by the color of their skin. Racism takes different forms which include written or verbal insults or threats, personal attacks which may be violent, damage of one’s property, exclusion from an activity based on the color of the skin and even making racist jokes. Racism can affect anyone, and it exists in all cultures and races.
Perry (2007), defines racism as the state of mind in people that favors the people in the strong side when there is a disparity of power. In his view, racism has continued to grow even after a long time and mutate in the society because it is advantageous to those who embrace the idea. Racism has also been able to spread in people with little power as they strive to eliminate it. Consequences of racism, in general, have been found to be overwhelmingly destructive when they take root in society. For example, historically, in the community where slavery was practiced and the elite we fewer than the oppressed, the elite lived in fear of a rebellion from the slaves. A good example is a scenario of the early American south where slaves out-numbered their owners. The possibility of an uprising was what the owners dreaded most. Another example is that of South Africa. Fear characterized apartheid due to the disparity in opposing population where 20% oppressed 80%. The probability of an uprising that would fight against the apartheid was very high which put the society in fear and oppression. Both of this aspects lead to nothing but the destruction of the community.
A more recent example of this is what happened in April 1963 in Birmingham, Alabama. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil right leaders started a nonviolent protest to desegregate public facilities in the city. However, the authorities turned police dogs, and fire hoses on them and other demonstrators who had joined many of whom were children from the local schools. As a result, a lot of people were arrested beaten and injured in the process. The whole campaign and the aftermath were broadcasted on national and world televisions, allowing the world to see the brutality of American racism for the first time.
Above is just a touch on how it affects the racist individuals in the society. It is far much worse and instantaneous for the individuals on the receiving end, especially when done on an institutional level. Institutionalized policies that are racist cause immeasurable suffering when discrimination is in play. Institutional racism is the unfair treatment that is in most cases perpetrated by government entities which include schools, military, Hospitals, and the court. Unlike the racism committed by an individual which may affect a single person or a small group of people, institutional racism impacts on a whole lot of people from a single race which may mean that they may not have a fair opportunity to experiences what the favored race is experiencing and which is against human rights. If the government did not have a play in racial segregation, the problem in most cases would not have mutated as individual case racism would not have a considerable effect on the society as a whole. Other institutions like church play a role in this (Hayle, Wortley & Tanner, 2016).
When looking at racism in a hospital setting, many unethical medical experiments have been done to the people of color without anyone asking questions in the past. Other than this, minorities in the country still do not receive standard treatment in hospital as compared to their counterparts. A lot of individuals with South Asian, Arabic, Latin or African descent find themselves being racially profiled. Racial profiling is the practice stopping and scrutinizing an individual passing in a public place like public highways, airports, or pedestrian by a statistical profile of the individual’s race. With racial profiling, law enforcement can target an individual as a suspect just because they belong to a particular race. Racial profiling is another form of institutional racism and can lead to a person being taken to court that treats him/her the same and as a result incrimination of something they did not do (Hayle, Wortley & Tanner, 2016). It is for this reason that this paper will look at the criminal justice system and understand how it works. With this understanding, it is easy to pinpoint where institutionalized racism is taking place in the system and know how to deal with it before it spreads. The paper will ultimately provide a solution to the problem through utilitarianism system.
The criminal justice system
The criminal justice system is divided into four components which include the police department, the prosecution, the court and the correction. Each of this components plays a role in making sure that the country is safe and that criminals are put off the streets. For a criminal justice process to take place, there has to be an individual who committed an offense then gets arrested after which he/she is prosecuted, arraigned in court and then sentence. All this happens within this system.
The police department plays various roles in the system, but the main is law enforcement. Law enforcement involves detecting, preventing, investigating crimes and apprehending the individuals involved in the offense. The work of police officers is done under the guidance of the statutory requirements and the constitution which requires protection of the welfare of the citizenry rights. A crime may happen in sight of a police officer, some may be reported, and it's upon them to investigate how the offense took place and the perpetrators. Other crimes may go unreported. For the criminal activities that come to the attention of the police and investigation is done, the police officers have to hand over the investigation report and other materials related to the case to the prosecutor. There are criminal activities that never get to pass this stage where they are handled in-house. The magnitude of the crime an individual has committed is primarily determined by the general conduct of the citizenry in the jurisdiction, and therefore it is upon the police officer to determine if a case is worth pursuing based on the general behavior of the public ("Corrections and the Criminal Justice System", n.d.). Due to their training and experience in the jurisdiction, it is easy to determine this hence the ability to reduce the number of cases that proceed to the next stage.
The cases worth pursuing follow an arrest of the suspect. At this point, the suspect has a right to an attorney and is entitled to seek a release on bail or bond. The bail may be obtained without the need of a court order depending on the procedures of the jurisdiction and the crime itself. If this is not the case, the application is made after the fast court appearance or soon after that. For those cases that proceed to the prosecution, all the materials for the case are submitted to the prosecutor. The documents include the complaint made by the victim or the individual who presented the offense to the police department, evidence materials, witness statements, a statement by the accused, prior records of the accused and police recommendation to the prosecutor on the case. It is the prosecutor’s duty at this point to go through the case and determine if they will proceed with prosecution or return the case to the police department for further investigation or just drop the case if it is weak. How the prosecutor decides to continue with a case at this stage is solely dependent on the seriousness of the crime and the jurisdiction in which they are operating ("Corrections and the Criminal Justice System", n.d.).
Minor offenses are followed by the prosecutor filling a criminal charge where the accused is taken before a lower court usually a magistrate, a justice of the peace or a commissioner to plead guilty or not guilty. When the charges are filled an individual seizes to be accused and becomes a defendant in the case of The state of (the name of the state in which the case is taking place) vs. the defendant (the name of the accused). For minor offenses, the proceedings are expeditious, and if the accused is found guilty, they are given small penalties usually fines or short-term jail terms ("Corrections and the Criminal Justice System", n.d.).
For more significant offenses, the process takes time where the crime is considered a felony or a misdemeanor. In most jurisdictions, misdemeanor offenses carry up to one-year penalties while penalties are more than a year. Soon after the arrest, an individual is brought before a lower judicial authority where their right as read, a counsel as assigned to them if they do not retain an attorney and where the sufficiency of the charges one is accused of is reviewed. After this, the case is publicly and formally filed with the court system. The accused is then arraigned in court wherein the person does not have funds is assigned a counsel. The individual is then asked to choose whether they want to have a trial by jury or by judge alone. The court may order a reduction of charges due to insufficient evidence after it has presented. The defendant’s counsel may also negotiate with the prosecution for a minimization of the charges or dropping of the case all the same for a guilty plea or by the strength of the case. The council may also file a motion challenging various things which may include the arrest or other police actions or the legality of the prosecution papers and many others ("Corrections and the Criminal Justice System", n.d.).
The court system is where an individual’s fate is determined. The court proceedings must be conducted per the constitution. If the defendant pleads guilty, the court has to ensure that the defendants plead was voluntary and informed. If they plead not guilty, the court proceeds to trial where if the defendant chose not to have the jury present, the court determines his/her fate. The defendant may have decided to have a trial by jury. Therefore, they will listen to the case under the supervision of the judge. The judge then instructs the jury on the laws that apply to the case at hand. After hearing of the case, the defendant found not guilty will be released and the one found guilty is sentenced. Sentencing hence leads an individual to the correctional system.
The correctional system involves all those agencies that act upon what has been ordered by the court. They include the probation authority, jails for the short term sentencing, paroling authorities, prisons for long-term sentencing and finally agencies that perform community corrections functions. Sentencing in the country takes various forms which include paying fines and restitution, probation, community service, suspended sentencing, serving time in prison, and execution for capital offenses. Fines and restitution are paid to the judicial office so it could be in a way be part of the correction system ("Corrections and the Criminal Justice System", n.d.).
Racism in the Criminal justice system
After looking at the entire criminal justice system, it is easy to understand how racism even in one of the components of the whole system can affect an individual. One example of how this can happen is the case of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old black high-school student who is a victim of racial profiling. George Zimmerman was a neighborhood watch that fateful night when he spotted Martin walking down the street after purchasing a soft drink and candy and started following him despite the police telling him otherwise. The result of the racial profiling was the death of the boy after Zimmerman shot him. The case was taken to court but was dismissed because there was no sufficient evidence to indicate that Zimmerman acted on hate rather than self-defense. It is despite reviewing and identifying that the victim did not have any weapon on him and he was just a 17-year-old boy against a 28year old man with a gun. To make matters worse is that the young boy did not instigate anything. The only crime he did was being black (Teasley, Schiele, Adams & Okilwa, 2018). The case is one of the many that made it to the public eye and the fact that there was a never fair trial for the case just shows how the system is not favorable for a lot of people it is just that the cases never make it to the light.
Teasley et al., (2018), in their article quote statistic presented by the U.S Department of Justice in 2014. According to these statistics, the adolescent black male of ages between 18 and 19 were more likely to be in the federal prison by a margin of 10 times as compared to their white counterparts. The same statistics pointed out that the black individuals in the united states have the highest rate of imprisonment in federal and state facilities as compared to other races. In estimation, it is approximated to be between 3.8 and 10.5 times when compared to the white men and between 1.4 and 3.1 times more when compared to the rate at which the Hispanic men are incarcerated. With these statistics it is either the black men are prone to criminal activities or the system judges them by the color even before they are presented in court. It is evident that racism exists in the criminal justice system.
Utilitarianism in the Justice system
Eliminating racism in the system requires a systematic approach. Utilitarianism can be useful in that it contains two elements. The two aspects are happiness and consequentialism. Utilitarianism ideology is that an action is worth morally if its contribution to the overall joy and pleasure is more significant among all the parties. Hence the greatest happiness for the highest number of people (Berthold, n.d.).
As seen earlier, the individuals who participate in discriminating individual by the color of their skin are usually less than those victimized in the population. As a result, a significant number of people in the population are unhappy. Even for the discriminators, they are not happy because they live in fear of retaliation by the victims of discrimination. It is therefore only appropriate to use the utilitarianism system of thinking when passing judgment on an individual. Equal treatment of individual without looking at the color of the skin should be emphasized as it is the only way the highest population can be happy.
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