To Kill a Mockingbird: Racial Tension in the Justice System
Did you know that “… one of every three black males born today will go to prison in his lifetime…” (Justice for All?). No matter what you think about the circumstances that leads up to the origin of this problem, “… it should be deeply disturbing to all Americans that these figures represent the future for a generation of children growing up today.” (Justice for All?). This is a major issue because one third of African Americans in this generation will grow up to go to jail, if the current course continues. This is mostly caused by inequalities in the justice system. African Americans have a higher probability of having complications in gaining equal rights in court. Therefore, racial tension still exist in our justice system today. It is very evident through statistics and studies.
African Americans are unjustly earmarked by police and withstand crueler prison sentences than their white equivalent. A North Carolina study 2017, looked at one hundred of the largest police departments and their more than 4 million traffic stops. They reported that African Americans were pulled over and examined more often than any other race. Specifically, they were searched five percent more times. In Ferguson Missouri, in 2012 through 2014, the Justice Department reported that African Americans deemed for eighty-five percent of traffic stops. In this state, African Americans had double the chance of being inspected by the police when stopped. This shows that “During traffic stops, people of color are more likely to be searched than their white counterparts.” (Hagler). Within the years 2007 and 2011, the United States Sentencing Commission reported that African American males have nearly a twenty percent longer sentence given to them than a white male for a similar crime. When looking at the sentencing guidelines, African Americans were twenty-five percent less likely to be given a smaller sentence than whites. In 2012, a study shows that in Delaware, “black defendants who kill white victims are seven times as likely to receive the death penalty as are black defendants who kill black victims. … Moreover, black defendants who kill white victims are more than three times as likely to be sentenced to death as are white defendants who kill white victims.” (Balko). Additionally, “People of color, particularly black males, face longer sentences than their white non-Hispanic counterparts for similar crimes” (Hagler).
Although we have a judicial system that is thought to be open-minded and impartial towards all, it is not, as in some cases it results in racial prejudice. Batson v. Kentucky, in 1986, was a case in which the United States Supreme Court made a law to prohibit attorneys from dismissing potential jurors based on their color. In 2015, The New Yorker stated that as many as thirty years have passed since the ruling and the courts have still allowed black jurors to be dismissed based on inadequate reasons. Attorneys have even been trained to dismiss black jurors without being criticized. In 2010, the Equal Justice Initiative reported that the court supported prosecutors’ dismissal of jurors based on racial lifestyles and cultures. While there is no specific data collected from across the nation to support the removal of black jurors, however, there have been numerous studies. Between 1983 and 1993, a study of courtrooms shows that “…prosecutors in Philadelphia removed 52 percent of potential black jurors vs. only 23 percent of nonblack jurors.” (Balko). Michigan State University College of Law conducted a study in 2011 that revealed that between 1990 and 2010, prosecutors let go fifty-three percent of potential black jurors opposed to twenty-six percent of white jurors. They also found, “The state legislature had previously passed a law stating that death penalty defendants who could demonstrate racial bias in jury selection could have their sentences changed to life without parole. The legislature later repealed that law.” (Balko). This shows that there is prejudice in the court system as the law was created to expose racial bias and then they removed it.
Some people may argue that black people are not the only ones targeted by the judicial system. During the Jim Crow era, the criminal justice system was being formed and it would almost seem like everyone was racist. Of course, in today’s world the criminal justice system has helped keep things fair for all. Over the decades the evidence has shown that the system has developed and everyone is treated the same. One might object that African Americans are not the only ones with disparities. but white people are also often mistreated, abused, shot, and killed by police. Whites are affected by laws and held to standards too. In the San Diego area in 2002, a study showed that narcotic search warrants were used to look for drugs in homes. African Americans were suspected more, but the whites suspected had more drug paraphernalia found and confiscated. In St. Louis County, in 2013, “Blacks were more than twice as likely as whites to be searched after traffic stops, even though they proved to be 26 percent less likely to be in possession of illegal drugs or weapons.” (Balko). In 2013, the Justice Department reported, “White people are actually more likely to get pulled over for noticeable traffic violations such as speeding.” (Balko). These findings show that blacks are not the only people targeted by the judicial system.
In today’s times racial inequality does exist in the judicial system. It is immensely evident in law enforcement and throughout the court system. One third of African Americans will look forward to growing up and going to jail. African Americans have tougher prison sentences imposed on them than white people. They are also unreasonably marked by the police. African Americans have a higher chance of being searched at traffic stops. The judicial system is bias and prejudice even though it is not supposed to be. The supreme court passed a law where attorneys couldn’t remove potential black jurors, but this law is largely unenforced. Many people may not agree that racial disparities exist. The fact remains that a great deal of black children will grow up and go to jail. The judicial system needs to be desensitized to help alleviate this problem. The compelling evidence shows a need to create a balance in the criminal justice system for all.
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