The Criminal Justice System: Racial Inequalities

The US is the most diverse country in the world; it’s population consists of different people in terms of race, culture and ethnicity. Despite this composition, the US remains with high levels of racial inequality. This is because of the economic standards and long history of hatred between American citizens of different races. Disparities in economic standards have led to marginalization of minority groups in all systems. The criminal justice system also discriminates against minority groups. It treats African American people in a harsh way compared to White Americans. This research paper will discuss causes and impacts of racial inequalities in the Criminal Justice System to the society.

Prevalence of crime

According to research findings carried out in the US from 1989 to 2003, there is high number of minority groups that are incarcerated every year compared to white American men (Mauer, 2006). The minority groups include the black Americans and people of Hispanic origin. Numerous factors have led to differences in the number of imprisonment cases in the US among the three groups. One of the factors is the discrimination of the minority groups (Mauer, 2006).

Over the years, the prevalence of incarceration among the African American men aged between 25 and 29 has gone high. The number of White Americans and people of the Hispanic origin have remained low (Chew, and Kelley, 2009). In 2003, there were 832,400 black Americans in the country’s correctional system compared to 665,100 white Americans and 363,900 people of Hispanic origin (Chew, and Kelley, 2009). This is a clear indicator that something is wrong within the criminal justice system (Mauer, 2006).

Hispanic Americans are migrants with different backgrounds in terms of economy and culture (Bell, 2010). They usually come to the US as illiterate migrants. They are not able to speak English fluently which has contributed to harassment by the police when arrested. In 2003, there were more than 10 percent Hispanic men aged 25 to 29 in prison compared to 1.6 percent of white Americans (Mauer, 2006). The most common crime among people of Hispanic origin is issue of drug trafficking, which has led to high rates of imprisonment. Most crimes associated with drugs are perpetuated by people from Mexico especially men

It has been identified that black American men aged 25 to 29 are prone to crime. They involve themselves with drugs, gang fights, and guns. Only a small percentage of black Americans have white-collar jobs or steady employment (Bell, 2010). Most black Americans do manual jobs that do not offer enough income to sustain them. This has led to discrimination of black Americans by the majority white population. Out of frustration and disappointments, young black Americans have turned to crime for survival.

Black American young men in most cases are sent to prison even over minor offences that can be dealt with by placing them on probation. It is evident that discrimination and modern slavery still exists even in the justice system, which should promote justice (Bell, 2010). Additionally, there is no trust between the police and Black Americans. For a very long time the American police have participated in cases of discrimination. For instance, black American young men are taken to custody just because they look like suspects or because they are walking in a rich neighborhood (Sabol and Cout re, 2008).

Incidents of criminal prosecution, convictions, prison sentences, and time served by African American, Hispanic, and White men

Several research studies have indicated that there exists different levels of racial discrimination in different states. Because of racial inequalities pertaining to African Americans, Black Americans have high chances of serving a prison sentence in their lifetime (The Sentencing Project, 2004). Research shows that White American men have low chances of going to prison followed by men of Hispanic origin. Generally, in most states when there is a case between blacks and white, blacks stand high chances of prosecution (Mauer, 2006). There is high rates of conviction among black men compared to whites accused of the same crime. This means that there is discrimination in the justice criminal system, which has contributed to more black men serving prison sentence especially the young people.

Additionally, there is a high difference on the amount of money that is required for bail. When white and black people are charged with the same crime, they pay different amount of bail. The amount of bail paid by Black population is 18% high compared to that of white Americans charged with a similar crime. This has continually placed African Americans on the disadvantage side (Chew, and Kelley, 2009).

The number of African American men who are convicted remains relatively high. According to the federal records released in 2000, a large number of black men aged 25 to 29 on face death row compared to white males of the same age (The Sentencing Project, 2004). Out of the 682 people charged with death penalty crimes 48% of them were Black Americans, 20% white males and 29% of males from Hispanic origin (Chew, and Kelley, 2009). The minority groups make a big percentage of those people on death row compared to white Americans (The Sentencing Project, 2004).

Why African Americans are more involved in crime

Most of the minority groups find themselves in crime because of varied reasons. First, most of blacks are poor and lack economic power. There are not able to meet their daily needs and this causes them to participate in criminal activities. When people live in poor conditions, they become desperate and are willing to do anything to survive. Secondly, most of the poor young people live in areas that are tempting, and hence they get involved in criminal activities (Chew, and Kelley, 2009). When an individual grows up in an environment that supports activities such as violence, drug abuse and robbery among others they learn to live with the situation. Young people are brought up in areas with rampant crime; they learn how to commit crimes because of environmental influence. Thirdly, most minority groups are not well educated. Black people lack quality education, which means they cannot get jobs that can support them. Hence, individuals engage in crime out of anger and frustration. The black American population has not been able to acquire economic power because they face discrimination in the society (The Sentencing Project, 2004).

The rate of school dropout among the African American men is also high. Most people who drop out of school become idle and have high chances of participating in criminal activities. This gives the people high chances of going to prison within their lifetime (Bell, 2010). A high school or college certificate in the US translates to an individual being a well functioning citizen.This is because people are judged with a high school or college certificate hence those who drop out of school are deemed as not fit to coexist with other people (Sabol and Cout re, 2008). African American people in the US make the high number of high school dropout compared to white Americans and people of Hispanic origin. African Americans who drop out of school have 34% chances of going to prison compared to 6.7% Hispanic origin and 6% white Americans (Bell, 2010).

There is high discrimination in the employment sector. It is difficult for African Americans to obtain employment in the US. For instance in job applications where there is a white American and an African American applicant, the white applicant has 9 chances to get the job compared to an African American with same qualifications.

Racial inequalities among African Americans

Racial discrimination has remained as the overall reason for arrests, conviction, and imprisonment of African Americans. Police without any obvious criminal offence have shot African Americans. A good example is a case where a young African American man was shot 41 times while trying to reach for his wallet (Mauer, 2006). This shows how discrimination has highly affected the African American people. The police do not give black people a chance to express themselves because of misconceptions. All African American people are treated as criminals (Bell, 2010).

When African Americans are taken to court, they are not given the chance to defend themselves, they are denied bail, or the bail is set so high that they are not able to afford (Cole, 1999). It has been discovered that African Americans are not easily placed on probation even when they have minor offences. On the other hand, White Americans are given affordable bails and are easily placed on probation; they are rarely taken to prison.

Incidences that African Americans go through in the Criminal Justice System

When African Americans are arrested they suffer harassment at the hands of the police. For instance, an African American young man was caught and taken to the police station, while at the police station he was tortured and raped with a stick (Cole, 1999). This is just an example of the kind of treatment that African American people suffer in the justice system. When African Americans are put in custody, they go through extremely bad conditions. In another case, there was a hurricane Katrina in 2005 and all people were taken out of their cells. However, African American convicts were left in their cells with water getting to their necks. This shows the brutality that African American people go through while in custody (Cole, 1999).

The impact of racial inequalities

Mistreatment of young African American men in the justice system is a problem that goes beyond an individual. Once an individual is taken to custody, the people left behind go through pain and suffering. African American people are not given the opportunity to defend themselves and some of them are killed because of mere speculations by White American police officers (Cole, 1999). The people left behind especially children go through trauma and are more likely to join criminal gangs to survive. African Americans face discrimination in the justice system and in other sectors. It is difficult for African Americans to get employment with or without a criminal record. Once released from prison, African American are unable to get a job, which increases chances of going back to crime. It is easy for a White American with a criminal record to get a job than an African American without a criminal record (Cole, 1999).

Structured inequality

Chew and Kelley (2009) observes that the Supreme Court has 805 judges. Out of 805 judges, only 89 are African Americans. There is 14% White lawyers compared to 7.9% African American lawyers (Mauer, 2006). The number of White lawyers is close to double the number of black lawyers. Generally, there is poor representation of African Americans in the criminal justice system. This is a clear indicator that discrimination and inequalities are caused by poor representation of minority groups. The lawyers, judges, and lawmakers make decisions that favor the majority White Americans. The graph below shows representation of African Americans, White Americans, Asian Americans, and Hispanic people on the bench.


In conclusion, the number of African American men aged 25 to 29 involved in crime in the US is high. These statistics reflect the number of people who are arrested and taken to custody. African American men are arrested more compared to White Americans and people of Hispanic origin. However, the federal data does not provide the figures of people involved in crime but are not arrested.

Numerous factors contribute to the high number of crime rates among young Africa American men. These factors include poverty, poor education, cases of school dropout, and unemployment among others. In fact, all these factors arise because of racial inequalities in the state (Chew, and Kelley, 2009). The high cases of discrimination against African Americans in the criminal justice system show that the country has not gone through a revolution as many people think. There is disparity in representation of African Americans in the criminal justice system. White Americans form majority of the Lawmakers and enforcers. Indeed, there are many white American lawyers and judges compared to African American. To eliminate racial inequality, the government should promote equality in all sectors of life such as employment, education, and criminal justice system (Chew, and Kelley, 2009). Policies should be developed to promote justice for all citizens to social change.

Reference List

Bell, D. (2010).Race, Racism and the Law Speaking Truth to Power!!. Web.

Chew, P., & Kelley, R. (2009). Myth of the color blind-judge: An empirical analysis of racial harassment Cases. Washington University Law review 1(86) 1119-1165.

Cole, D. (1999) No Equal Justice: Race and Class in the American Criminal Justice System. New York: The New Press.

Mauer, M. (2006). Race to Incarcerate. (2nd Ed.) New York: The New Press.

Sabol, W., & Couture, H. (2008). Prison Inmates at Midyear 2007. Washington: Bureau of Justice Statistics.

The Sentencing Project. (2004). R e d u c i n g racial disparity in the Criminal Justice System. A Manual for Practitioners and Policymakers 1(1)1-74.

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LawBirdie. "The Criminal Justice System: Racial Inequalities." March 27, 2023.