Problems in the Criminal Justice System

Subject: Law
Pages: 7
Words: 1819
Reading time:
7 min
Study level: College

For many years changes have been effected in a bid to improve the criminal justice system of the United States. Despite the numerous reforms, numerous problems still rock the system one of them being racial discrimination in the system. This problem dates back to the period of slavery. The issue of inequality between the whites and the blacks in America was established in the belief that African slaves brought to America had no rights and freedoms that the whites ought to observe whenever they related with them. This was portrayed by the high court during the case between Dred Scott and Sandford in 1857 (Harris, 2002, Par. 3).

A period of reconstruction emerged after a civil war and the conquest by Union. This was just after the ban of slavery in the country. Several clauses in the constitution were amended in a bid to absolutely abolish slavery, provide equal protection among all citizens regardless of their race as well as give the African Americans the right to vote which they had been denied for a long time. This momentarily provided hope for a brighter future among the blacks. They participated in the country’s politics for the first time. However, the freedom was only to be enjoyed for a short time. Acts of violence and economic pressure were meted on the African Americans especially in the south. Despite reforms in the constitution, there are still some hiccups in the amended one that still provided room for discrimination against the blacks. There were numerous cases of racial discrimination against black criminals. Even today there is a constitutional immunity to slavery in the country which can be traced back to the 13th Amendment. This is one of the major loopholes that have been exploited in conducting racial discrimination within the criminal justice system (Mac Donald, 2008, 35).

In the 19th century; during the reign of Jim Crow African Americans were arrested at a higher rate compared to the whites in the name of being criminals. Various alterations were made to make the crimes committed by African Americans appear more severe leading to them facing harsh sanctions as well as penalties. There was a conventional attitude among the whites that African Americans were inborn criminals. This led to the number of African American prisoners being very high. Based on the statistics regarding the number of African American convicts today, the same disparity manifests itself. The statistics are alarming. At the beginning of the Reagan government in 1980, there were about five hundred and two thousand prisoners in the county’s prisons. By the time Clinton’s Government was going out, the number of prisoners had rapidly increased to about 1,800,000. Out of this, about eight hundred thousand inmates were Black males with females making about seventy thousand of the total inmates (Mac Donald, 2008, 36).

The problem of doing away with racial discrimination in conducting criminal justice in the United States still is a major problem in the country’s judicial system. Little effort has been made to overcome this despite reliable findings from scholars, various commissions, and statisticians giving the account of racial disparity in the criminal justice system. Racial discrimination in the criminal justice system is manifested in all levels of the system starting from profiling to charging. Today’s interpretation of the law regarding prosecuting and charging criminals found guilty of drug trafficking has shown not to be effective in fighting indiscriminative charges. There has been a failure to understand among the criminal protection lawyers and other advocates that Congress acted in a racially discriminative motive when it was establishing laws that deal with drug trafficking (Mac Donald, 2008, 37). This has resulted in extremely protracted compulsory charges unreasonably being meted on the African Americans. The penalties have been found to be a hundred times more severe on Blacks compared to Whites arrested for the same offense.

Racial discrimination is also witnessed in cases where prosecutors tend to move from the stipulated guidelines on how to sentence criminals. According to research, it has been found that in most cases judges are seen to take a downward movement when it comes to sentencing White criminals. The Whites are found to receive lenient charges compared to the Blacks who have committed the same crime. 25% of the Whites receive lower charges compared to 18.3% of blacks. Prosecutorial powers in deciding the sentencing location have also been seen to go with racial discrimination in the criminal justice system when it comes to crimes to do with cocaine. For instance, a case involving the United States versus Armstrong alleged that the central prosecutor in Los Angeles discriminately profiled and sentenced blacks in crack cocaine cases. Since the establishment of cocaine laws in 1986 to the time of the Armstrong case, no white criminal had been incarcerated for a crack cocaine crime in regional courts of Los Angeles and its neighboring countries. Instead, all the White criminals were prosecuted in state courts where they were protected against the drug’s extended compulsory charges (Harris, 2002, Par. 7). The results of deciding to prosecute the Blacks in federal courts are greatly felt. Here the blacks face a compulsory minimum sentence of over ten years or life imprisonment without appeal if found guilty of selling over fifty grams of the drug. If they are to be prosecuted in California courts, they could only be subjected to a minimum sentence of three years or a maximum sentence of five years if found to have sold more than fifty grams of cocaine.

One of the major challenges is proving that the prosecutor has passed his or her sentence discriminately. Despite the constitution stating that all persons who have committed similar crimes to be charged equally, discrimination still shows itself in the criminal justice system. In cases where the blacks have been seen to contend against racial discrimination with cases to do with drugs, the appellate courts have in unison been seen to use the rational review in justifying the legitimacy of their past action. This has made it hard to prove the occurrence of racial discrimination on the blacks in the criminal and justice system despite it being high.

To curb unequal protection in the judicial system, there is a need to show that racially neutral law has been executed discriminately by proving the uneven impact it has on a particular group compared to another group that has committed the same crime. The current standards of determining the rate of racism disregard the way racism works. In some cases, racial discrimination may occur without the intent of the prosecutor. This calls for the need to establish remedies that do not necessarily depend on evidence of the prosecutor’s intention in discriminating against a person. Advanced racists have learned how to articulate their language in a manner that will not look discriminative nor leave any trace of discrimination. Despite there being some reasons for not providing equal protection in cases of intentional discrimination, such reasons, no matter how pertinent they may appear, needs not be used as the excuse for continuing with racial discrimination in the criminal and justice system. New analysis needs to be carried out to come up with new methods of curbing this problem. One way of combating racism in the criminal justice system is by embracing a balancing mechanism that would increase the number of marginal members on the civilian assessment board or judges in cases consisting of minorities as criminals or defendants. Based on the effectiveness manifested by the 12th-century jury’de meditate linguae; that protected alien traders in courts by coming up with judges consisting of six home members and six foreigners, it is possible to curb racial discrimination in the United States criminal justice system (Thomas, 1997, PP. 23-27).

There is also a great need for the establishment of policies that would deal with the dilemma of race and crime that seems to be a major problem affecting the country’s rule of law. One of the foremost important actions is to ensure that law enforcement and criminal justice are conducted at the community level. There is a need for global human rights organizations to work together with the justice activists in the United States to ensure that the country adopts international human rights laws. This will ensure that there is no racial discrimination in the criminal justice system. Based on the current laws, there is no adequate challenge to the contrasting results of racial discrimination in sentencing criminals. Directions from international laws and to be specific those found in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) that emphasize the significance of discriminatory results, could get rid of the constraints provided by the present laws in regard to racism in the criminal justice system. Even if law is not used to put into effect the agreement in the United States, using international laws in interpreting human rights would help in educing racism (Thomas, 1997, P. 29)

There is need for the State Department to come up with ways of eliminating racial discrimination as well as facing challenges caused by racial discrimination when it comes to cases of drug trafficking in the country. The fight against racism does not affect only those involved in crimes. There is need for law schools to come up with various ways of identifying and analyzing prosecutorial and judicial bias in the courts to help in mitigating this problem. There is need for establishment of more advanced statistical materials that will help in coming up with concrete evidence of presence of racism in the criminal justice system. Unfair drug laws are one of the major factors that lead to the arrest of the Blacks in America. There is need for all citizens to understand that war on drugs need not to be attributed to any race. New laws need to be established that do not discriminate with respect to race when it comes to fighting drug trafficking in the country (Nkechi, 2003, Par. 5).The media has also been seen to focus on cases dealing with drugs as most of these cases pertains the Blacks. This has been another way that has helped in propagation of racism as everybody has attributed Blacks to drugs. The media needs to air out issues to do with discrimination in the system to help in discouraging the perpetrators of racism from going on with their evil acts.

Reference list

Harris, K. (2002). The Criminal Justice System: Reproducing the Badges and Incidents of Slavery. Web.

Mac Donald, H. (2008). Is the Criminal-Justice System Racist? Spring 18(2). PP. 34-37. Springs 18 (2).

Nkechi, T. (2003). Racial Disparities in the U.S. Criminal Justice System: Can the International Race Convention Provide a Basis for Relief? Web.

Thomas, N. J. (1997). Racism in the criminal justice system: problems and suggestions Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy. Web.