Living In Color: The Truth Behind Racial Bias in the Criminal Justice System | Teen Ink

Living In Color: The Truth Behind Racial Bias in the Criminal Justice System

June 16, 2019
By Anonymous

According to the NAACP, if African Americans and Hispanics were incarcerated at the same rates as whites, prison and jail populations would decline by almost 40%.  Racial bias is undeniably evident in the criminal justice system and is proven by the simple fact that blacks are more likely than whites to go to jail for the same crime.  In addition, people of color must face unfair treatment by law enforcement which precludes them from thriving in society. Due to this, parents of minorities must teach their children to live unnoticed, out of fear that they will be targeted by the police.  These children are forced to have strained childhoods and are unable to grow as freely as white children do. Many efforts to find a resolution to this issue have been made, but nothing has permanently changed the bias within the system. The criminal justice system must be changed to eliminate racial bias during the sentencing process because it is unjust, threatens the lives of minorities, and strains the childhoods of children of color.

Racial bias creates an unjust society for minorities. Unfortunately, “African Americans are incarcerated at more than five times the rate of whites”, presenting a clear racial disparity in the criminal justice system (NAACP 2).  Even though African Americans are the minority of the nation, they are the majority in prison systems. In addition, Ronald G. Fryer Jr. discusses in his analysis of the racial differences in police, how research has found that blacks and Hispanics are over 50% more likely to experience a form of force in interactions with police (Fryer 7).  Police officers often target those of color unconsciously because they do not realize that they have this bias. Racial bias is often formed through the background in which a person has; therefore, the officer may have been exposed to certain stereotypes about minorities as they grew up (Struyk 8). For this reason, minorities are dealt unfair disadvantages in society, which makes them more susceptible to being incarcerated or killed.  Furthermore, the lives of minorities in the United States are at great risk due to racial stereotyping. In Angelica Delgado’s study on the experiences of Latinos and African Americans with law enforcement, her results showed that institutional racism, specifically that experienced through police brutality, is a social determinant of health (Delgado 2). Negative encounters with law enforcement have profound, life-altering, and long-lasting effects on individuals, families, and communities at large.  Stress is especially a large problem for physical health, as it is often related to higher blood pressure which can lead to heart disease. Also, there is a very significant psychological pressure on people who experience discrimination and prejudice, and that in turn has an affect on their relationships with other people and their families and communities, making them often more difficult and less satisfactory. Lastly, children of color are unable to live their lives as freely as white children. They are held to higher standards, and normal childlike behavior is often seen as a criminal threat.  This causes children of color to be pushed out, overpoliced, and overprotected (Bernstein 4). Many efforts have been put forth to eliminate racial bias from the criminal justice system. One way is to “make it a significant political issue and challenge the agencies to become more accountable. This can be done through lawsuits, like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) chapter in New York sued the New York City government and New York City police department for racial profiling and their stop and frisk policy, and the courts found that those practices were unconstitutional, violated several key rights in the Constitution” (Dunn 5).  Also, African Americans must take action and run for elected positions in government. This is because when they wield more political power and have more elected officials, police departments and those jurisdictions have much less racial profiling. Unfortunately, there are many difficulties in eliminating racial bias because of how different states have different laws.

Overall, racial bias can only be eliminated if people work together to change the criminal justice system.  Fairness in the system is one of the crucial justice issues of any period. It is a long standing issue that can be changed.  It is vital that new attempts to change the system are put into action, because minorities will never have the ability to gain the true freedom of an American if they are constantly worried about being harmed or persecuted due to their skin color.   It limits their opportunities to live a satisfactory life, to have access to necessary resources and opportunities to increase their standing in life, to get better educations and jobs, services, and more. It can be difficult to pinpoint exactly how to make a change.  It is not certain whether or not people will stick to and follow through with the change. In order to find the true answers to the issue, the laws which may prohibit the elimination of racial bias must be examined and the roots of the issue amongst communities should be identified.   A precedent needs to be established so that equality is practiced in all states. The repeated cycle of stereotypes must be ended. This starts with finding people who are willing to make a difference within their own communities. It will take conscious effort, specific measures, and time.  “If we bank progress on it and really see change, that will have a huge impact on people’s lives and open up more opportunities and help in many ways. It is the big fight, it’s the big struggle” - Timothy Dunn.

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The author's comments:

This article was written for a high school course called independent research.  It is a huge ongoing issue that will bring in readers.

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