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Mass Incarceration: Prison Racism and Discrimination

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With a recent increase in mass incarceration numbers into the twenty-first century, it is clear that the American experiment has stalled as a result of rising recognition, a situation that has forced stakeholders at both the federal and state levels to adopt policies aimed at reducing the scale of imprisonment. In order to reduce recidivism, policymakers advocate for the use of more advanced and clever crime approaches, which would not jeopardize public safety and would include far many practical alternatives to imprisonment (Alexander 67). After decades of an unprecedented escalation in proportions of racial profiling in the criminal justice systems, beginning the 1990s, a different trend was shaping up, whereby prison populations took a new dimension in racial composition to peak in the early 2000s. For instance, in the states like California, Rhode Island, New York, and New Jersey, the black prejudice in prisons depopulated at a percentage of between 20 to 30 percent. Nevertheless, to date, the US still maintains the highest number of people in state prisons across the world, with nearly 1.3 million people incarcerated. Unfortunately, two-thirds of these prisoners are African Americans and Latinos, people who make up barely 25 percent of the American population, hence such a huge disparity in racial profiling as a criterion of criminal justice systems` decision making on what, why, and who to be judged as guilty (Stevenson 34). Nevertheless, even though stakeholders in law and policy making have appreciated the need for reducing the American escalating mass incarcerations, the constant problem remains; the troubling issue of racial tensions. The controversial point of contention is that police officer, and criminal investigation agents have been reportedly spotted harassing people of color, whereby most African American men have been taken to prison, and others even killed, with or without the slighted provocation to warrant such brutal responses outside of typical proportions. Indeed, criminal changes cannot be made to realize positive outcomes, except that both ethnic and racial injustices are solved and such disparities contributing to the same summarily quelled. Furthermore, considering that most people of color are judged and incarcerated at state levels, the differences in daily operations, culture, beliefs, traditions and racial perceptions, as well as ethnical differences, should be considered. Mass incarcerations founded on racial minorities trigger many consequences which border on housing, family distribution, employment prospects, disenfranchisement, as well as stigma. Furthermore, by embracing prison sentences for such people, the people of color in America reside in regions of escalating poverty characterized by increasing imprisonment rates, hence destabilizing these communities and compromising their fitting into the American social mainstream for centuries (Murakawa 66). Considering the in the US people are incarcerated largely not because of their criminal offenses but because of their race, practices, beliefs, and racially compromised policies, the collateral consequences do not only affect African Americans but also troubles the whole American society, because then the justice system is weakened over time, the compromise that leads to the undermining of the rule of law in the long run, hence the need to focus on this controversial issues, outline the disparities, and highlight scholarly research-based recommendations that could help improve the situation.

Key Findings

Based on research data, key findings have been established, and they reveal a lot of compromise in the American criminal justice system, by focusing on mass incarcerations and racial profiling. While African Americans are incarcerated at a ratio of 5 to 1 relative to their white counterparts across the American states, it has been reported with disparity that in states like Minnesota, Iowa, New Jersey, Wisconsin, and Vermont, the incarcerations are at a ratio of 10 to 1 for the black Americans against the white Americans respectful. Whereas in Maryland 72 percent of the total number of prisoners are African Americans, hence the leading jurisdiction in the US with race-based imprisonments, more than one-half of the prisoners in 12 states; Alabama, Delaware, Louisiana, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, Michigan, Mississippi, Georgia, Illinois, South Carolina, and Virginia of prisoners are the people of color. Of the twelve states, eleven of them have one African American male adult in prison, for every 20 adult males free in the society (Stevenson 12). Nevertheless, perhaps more worrying is the situation in Oklahoma, whereby for every 15 African American men above the age of eighteen years, one of them is in custody. Indeed, states are the bottom-line of variation and disparity in mass incarcerations based on race; right from 12.2 to 1 in New Jersey, down to 2.4 to 1 in Hawaii for the black Americans and the whites respectfully. While Latinos are incarcerated at a rate of 1.4 higher than the white Americans, people of Hispanic origin are profiled on race when it comes to compromised criminal justice systems in the states like New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Massachusetts at 3.1 to 1, 33.3 to 1, 3.9 to 1, and 4.3 to 1 respectively. While the bureau of justice statistics indicates that 21, 38, and 35 percent of prisoners in all states are Hispanic, African Americans, and whites respectively, the body confirms that across twelve states, more than one-half of the prisoners are blacks. Whereas dependency on the presented data could not be as realistic as one could focus on racial figures, it is true that in some states like 61 percent of the prisoners in New Mexico are Hispanic and 42 percent for both California and Arizona. Indeed, from these statistics, a significant segment of the story of the American criminal justice framework injustices is told, considering that across the whole country, white Americans, black Americans, and the Hispanics are estimated at 65, 13, and 17 percent respectfully, while the imprisonment rates are the opposite in escalation. Therefore, there are significant odds for people of color in American jails, as compared to their white counterparts (Murakawa 256). Nevertheless, it should be considered that some states do jot project candidly the figures of racial and ethnical figures in their prisons, Hispanic are occasionally counted as white Americans. When this happens, the ratio of whites to Hispanics and whites to Africans in prisons reduces, which is therefore not realistically projected, as the rates could be higher than outlined hitherto. A good case is a state of Vermont, Alabama, Montana, and Maryland, whereby data is not consistently delivered to the Bureau of Justice Statistics for the Hispanic people, hence the exact number is unknown (Alexander 157).

Cases of Disparity, Policies, and Practices

While it is true that the American citizenry is aware of the social differences that way the different communities down and bar cohesion, as well as the general goodwill, including mass incarcerations, the efforts toward embracing declaration, have not been fully embraced when it comes to ethnic and racial disparities, hence making it the most significant challenge of the American criminal justice system. Indeed, there are three critical issues that primarily contribute to theses disparities; the policies and practices established to drive and guide the biases, the central platform taken by stereotype and implicit bias in fundamental decision making, and finally the structural misfortunes among the minorities of color, for instance, the black Americans, who are associated with high criminal and imprisonment rates. It is critical to note that the American criminal justice system has both established policies and strategized practices, whereby an individual has to encounter all of them before they penetrate the legal structure (Murakawa 12). Indeed, race is a factor that plays a crucial role in the process, considering that disparities only escalate as the person advances from arrest toward the stage of imprisonment. For the last forty years, harsh criminal punishment has since been adopted in the system, and this to a major degree contributes to the increased rates of imprisonment, despite the reduction in the criminal offenses across the country. Indeed, the growth in the number of people imprisoned at every single occasion peaked in 1973 and has remained at the apex, a move which was contributed to by several strategic decision making and policy establishments, some of which primarily targeted the African Americans. Up to 1986, imprisonment was adopted as an adequate punishment for those who committed certain felonies. This position would later shift to the offense of abusing drugs as well as sex-related crimes. While the offenses relating to substance addiction heightened between 1987 and 1991, the situation only got worse when the new policies adopted in 1995, which created room for not only an increased probability of being jailed but also the likelihood of lengthening the prison sentences. At a critical analysis, it is practical that black Americans are more vulnerable to getting involved with drug abuse, considering that the people of color are 4 times more likely to be confiscated over the offence, and 2.5 times more to be incarcerated for possession of drugs as opposed to their white counterparts (Stevenson 125). For instance, between 1995 and 2012, it was approximated that the African Americans made up barely 13 percent of drug abusers countrywide, 36 percent of the arrests made and 46 percent of those jailed were accounted for blacks. Indeed, this figures that blow out of proportions are typical disparities in regions that have been targeted and beginning from the first contact from the police. One of the most disturbing issue is the stop and frisk experience by the police officers, as even if the suspect is not found in possession of drugs, the probability of being arrested and be expressly headed for imprisonment escalated when they have previous criminal activities in record, regardless of whether one will have reformed and become law abiding citizen or not, an experience that put black Americans at a disadvantage. Moreover, Murakawa (2014) confirms that for all the police checks in New York between 2009 and 2015, the criteria used was more founded on race that the prevalence of the criminal activities in the region. Stopping, interrogating, frisking, and making decisions was inclined to furtive behavior and hence resulted in unwarranted arrests in the area.

Structural Disadvantage against African Americans

Indeed, perhaps one of the most important challenges the American criminal justice system faces in the twenty-first century is that based on racial profiling, black Americans begin to experience problems with the security organs and risk imprisonment even before they come into contact with the criminal justice establishments. Elements like lack of employment, family differences, diversity in culture, housing as well as poverty predispose the black race to more disproportionate occurrences of imprisonment than it should be typical (Alexander 19). Furthermore, other elements other than race influence African Americans to higher chances of falling in controversy with the law and hence falling victims of mass incarcerations. For instance, most poverty stricken American neighborhoods are inhabited by African Americans, a social disadvantage that compromises their personality and mostly results to criminal offenses, for example, robbery and violence, so as to profit the daily bread. Moreover, it is approximated that 62 percent of African Americans reside in inner urban set ups, and highly segregated places, which are characterized with phenomenal and habitual violence crimes, as opposed to the whites who mostly stay in areas with less violent crimes, hence their latter`s advantage over the former (Murakawa 223). Indeed, the disadvantages and the misconceptions done by such poverty stricken region do a lot of harm and injustices to the black Americans, elements which spill over to the whole American society, hence compromising not only the legal framework but also encouraging ethnicity and racism in the country, including the escalation of criminal offenses. Furthermore, when the American society is looked at critical regarding resource distribution, policy shielding, and racial stereotyping, it becomes apparent that right from childhood it does not show up automatically that black teenagers and their white counterparts are distinct in who the criminal becomes and the law-abiding citizen. Nevertheless, based on the upbringing environment as well as the compromised social structures, one category grows up to become easily undermined by criminal offenses, while the other grows up advancing away from illegal activities (Stevenson 379). Therefore, African Americans are not law breakers as it is expressly hyped, rather, evidenced external factors in the American social and legal structures compel the people of color into becoming whom they are stereotyped to be by the criminal justice frameworks. As such, more young men of color face structural disadvantages due to race and class differences. Hence they are most likely to be exposed to unstable family set ups, elevated unemployment rates, increased violent crimes, and more predisposed to dropping out of schools. Indeed, because most of these structural disadvantages face people of color, the proclivity of African Americans is more inclined to criminal misconceptions.

On the other hand, other forms of disparity like income and social status play a critical role when it comes to the racial and ethnical disparities in the US imprisonment framework, for instance, the possession of material wealth and social classes. For instance, the issues of pretrial detention are very prevalent among the people of color because of the poverty levels. Indeed, because of the structuralized income inequality, those who face pretrial detention are most likely to be incarcerated for longer periods as opposed to those are not. Indeed, it is therefore practical that non-legal factors in the American society influence imprisonment significantly (Alexander 28). Primarily, ethnicity and race are primary determinants of criminal justice system decision making. In similar circumstances that appear to compromise the law, the black and Hispanic teens are more likely to be incarcerated compared to their white counterparts. On the other hand, punitive treatment could escalate and get out of proportion for the blacks if they are convicted of drug offenses, have prior criminal offenses, have been reported to victimize whites, refuse to plead guilty when suspected, as well as those who fail to secure pretrial release (Easton 92). Furthermore, when it comes to jurisprudence roles, the platforms of decision making are often compromised based on race, hence putting the black Americans at a disadvantage, compared to whites. As opposed to similarly placed American whites, the African Americans are subjected to prosecutors who are more likely to prosecute African defendants under the establishments of the state habitual statutes. Indeed, the three strikes law in California only helped in escalating the disparities between the whites and the Africans, with the latter being put at a disadvantage in the criminal justice jurisprudence. The utilization of the habitual state law and its relationship to race is a disturbing connection in the US, and its evidence shows that the statues are used for trivial criminal offenses as opposed to serious felonies (Alexander 273).

Recommendations for Reform

Despite the fact that in the contemporary America the available room reformation is modest, it remains clear that the racial disparities established on both the ethnical and racial profiling are at an encouraging pace. A good example is the state of New Jersey, whereby despite being ranked as one of the most affected with racial profiling in the criminal justice framework, many statutes have been put in place to discourage and mitigate against every effort that encourages mass incarceration without precedence of the rule of law. Just like any other American state, the mass incarceration peaked in the 1970s in New Jersey and leveled at a new high in the 1990s, however, beginning the year 2000, it was confirmed that the prison population of the African Americans had gone down by 28 percent following the changes made in policies and practices in the criminal justice department. The laws passed on drug abuse including the 2010 Assembly Bill 2762 provided limitations for the legal system in the state to make incarceration decisions that had a compromised jurisprudence as far as racial and ethnical differences are concerned. Furthermore, the modification of the rule of law helped de-escalate the rates of parole in New Jersey (Murakawa 84). On average, following the reforms in New Jersey, the percentage of prisoners to date has reduced by 30, 35, and 16 percent for the Africans, Hispanics, and whites respectfully. Indeed, New Jersey is a representation of just a few American states which have reduced mass incarcerations based on race and ethnicity. However, if a more effective impact is to be witnessed across the whole country, then there are necessary parameters and strategic mechanisms that should be engaged to make the rule of law prevail rather than the disparities compromised on the race to influence judgments. In the present day America, most can justify that long prison term, and mass incarceration has not made the drug abuse situation any better in the country. Therefore, rather than the continued race-based mass incarcerations in the country, the stakeholders and professionals of in the segment of law implementation had better let go such unfruitful statutes, and device other favorable options like rehabilitation of those addicted to drugs. Furthermore, if disparities like poverty, unemployment, and racial profiling could be addressed more directly, the situation can be managed in a more reliable manner.

Moreover, the imprisonment of those with prior criminal offences for longer period has been of no significance to the society, it is true that public safety comes first, however, with the American prisons felt up, their escalation of crimes has raised to new levels, which means mass incarnation is not the solution to these challenges. Furthermore, the constant states statutes tend to disproportionately discriminate the black Americans again, because most of them reside in poor environments that are predisposed to criminal activities and have an increased contact with the police officers on patrol (Stevenson 123). One in nine prisoners is facing life imprisonment, and while 50 percent of them are Africans, one in every six is a Hispanic. Hence the people of color are majorly compromised. Consequently, the laws and regulations on sentencing and the intensity of crimes to warranty imprisonment should be reformed to concentrate more on the safety of the society rather than victimizing some Americans because of their races. The continued training of those judged with the responsibility to preside over criminal offenses and making criminal decisions is needed to reduce judgments that affect the society and cause more trouble than what it benefits. For instance, if one hundred African American men with wives and children are sentenced to life imprisonment, considering each has two sons and they drop out of school to later engage in criminal activities, approximately two hundred more criminals will have been unleashed into the society (Easton 133). Hence mass incarceration destabilizes the society more than it helps. Indeed, training people on the impact of certain criminal offenses and the need to be law abiding citizens as well as the adoption of racial impact legislations could help contain the dire situation in the American criminal systems.

Conclusion

The increased rates of incarcerations tagged as mass imprisonments and the racial profiling disparities that have put the black Americans at a disadvantage in the US criminal justice system have attracted a lot of concern and advocacies which have called for the reformation of the criminal justice frameworks. Indeed, there is need to exercise the reduction in mass incarcerations without necessarily destabilizing the safety of the Americans. Low level and trivial nonviolent crimes that make most African Americans end up in prison on pretrial systems, and eventual find themselves prescribed for life imprisonment does not make America a better place for any race, considering that the criminal offenses have not been impacted by such harsh punishments. The pressure impacted on people of color, the minorities of whom the African American are the most affected, should be reduced by rolling back the classification of most criminal offenses otherwise classified as felonies, into a misdemeanor category. The disparities in unemployment, gender, age, poverty, housing, and environmental classification regarding the prevalence of criminal offenses have compromised the freedom of the black race in America, which is explained by the imprisonment ratios of 12.2 to 1 for African Americans against their white counterparts respectfully. Even the states with the least of the dispirited like Hawaii still reports a two times chance of an African being incarcerated about a white person. The present day mass incarcerations America faces could not be significantly changed if serious, and sustainable reforms are not embraced, especially to eliminate the elements of racial profiling as a central decision-making determinant in the criminal justice structures.

Annotated Bibliography

Alexander, Michelle, and Cornel West. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. 2011. Print.

The suggested book is relevant to this subject because it demonstrates the long walk to freedom and the racial limitations that are discriminatory in nature. The book brings out the most critical aspect of old machinations that have refused to die. The source also discovers the genesis of the struggles to respect the rights of the people, regardless of the race they belong to. It also emphasizes the fact that it is easy to brand and discriminate against people of color from the society as well as following it through to the prisons. According to this book, a black criminal has scarce rights in every corner of the prison and society.

Easton, Susan. Sentencing and Punishment. Oxford University Press, 2016. Print.

This book is essential to the given research because it documents the events that took place between 1990 and 2000 that highlight the level of discrimination in prisons. The treatment that prisoners got was racial instigated according to this book, and that is important to investigate for this study. As the author points out, prisons were guilty of heard privileges owed to the prisoners in a discriminatory way. The timelines for the events in this book are critical in underlining the fact that the racial factor has been dominant for a long time.

Murakawa, Naomi. The First Civil Right: How Liberals Built Prison America. 2014. Print.

This book is significant for the research because it maps out a trend that shows the aspect of discrimination in different states. The statutes on the minimum punishment of crimes in prisons are applied with prejudices, and that aspect underscores the importance of this topic. The content covered in this book also highlights the fact that this matter of discrimination has been there for ages and is inherited by generations. Riots in the prisons are associated with discrimination and segregation, and that is also covered in this book.

Stevenson, Bryan. Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption. 2014. Print.

This source discusses the unfair sentencing of prisoners based on race, and that deprives them of rights like other prisoners. From the documentation in the book, the trend in relations to the prisoners headed for the death row is a show of discrimination. Besides that, those living in prison have nothing to smile about, because the condemnation follows them all their lives. As the author of the book states, the hopes of the prisoners are in the hands of helpless people, who have to go to school and then return to challenge the system.

October 20, 2021
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