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In
the Criminal Justice system, race and crime seem to go hand-in-hand. Different
minorities contribute a lot to crime and how a person is sentenced. African
American minorities are more likely to have a higher chance of being involved
with the Criminal justice system rather than whites; but why? “Race may be the deciding factor in whether
you are deemed innocent in a court of law” (Vox, 2017). Also, Studies around
the United States show that the majority of criminals are of African American
race, and usually people of the white race are okay with that. However, you
would not believe this fact, according to The Guardian “Black Americans are incarcerated 5.1 times more than white
Americans” (The Guardian, 2016).  This all has to do with disparity, the laws we
make, and wrongful incrimination.

            To begin, as mentioned before, black Americans have been
incarcerated about five times more than white Americans due to disparity, this
leads to the inequity of arrests and sentencing for African Americans. The
disparity experienced by African Americans references racial and ethnic disparity;
however intentional discrimination might not have a correlation. As much as
people like to dispute the racist laws and judgements that can occur, it is all
fact. The percentages and statistics that show the black vs. white criminals
that were incarcerated and in prison at some point in their lives have been
studied and polls have been taken. The large part of it all is again the
disparity that occurs. That states that in the Criminal Justice system, race
largely affects how criminals are prosecuted and viewed.  Slate
stated there is proven data on racial gaps in arrests,
convictions, and sentences (Slate, 2014). This leads to the reason why
the criminal justice system are more likely to prosecute a African American vs.
a White American. Data analyzes racial disparities in state prison populations
that black Americans are incarcerated more. Some states show that the disparity
was at least ten percent or higher. The research for all of this was done by Ashley
Nellis, whom stated that in New Jersey, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, and Vermont
had the highest disparity rate, which was more than double the average of 5.1%.
However, Hawaii had the lowest percentage which was 2.5%. The lowest ratio for
Hawaiian prisons is 2.4 black-1 White in prisons. One can see the difference
for an African Americans vs. Whites in the criminal justice system.

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            In those studies, the ratio of white to black in the
Criminal Justice system is almost alarming. When thinking of criminals, both
races have different opinions. In different studies, white Americans are skewed
by race and wealth. There has been a very large gap in arrests, convictions,
and sentences as stated from the Slate, and this may be due to the fact that
white people are morally accepting laws that harm African Americans. A new
study from Stanford University, led by psychologists Rebecca C. Hatey and
Jennifer L. Eberhardt, was conducted in two experiments. One experiment was in
New York City, and the other in San Francisco. In San Francisco the psychologists
recruited sixty-two White voters from a train station to watch a video that showed
eighty mug shots of African American and White male inmates. They manipulated
the video to show different ratios of African American to White to be either
more or less extreme. After the videos the participants were informed about the
“3 Strikes Law”, a harsh sentence on
habitual offenders with three felony convictions are to be given a sentence up
to 25 years to deter other criminals for committing future crimes, which essentially
attempts to reduce recidivism rates. Next, the participants were asked to sign
a petition. The participants shown the video with less African Americans signed
the petition, whereas the participants shown the video with more African
Americans had petition signatures amounting to less than 28%. The same
experiment was conducted in New York City with sixty-four White adult NYC
residents. One group received more African American mug shots (60.3% African
American; 11.8% White), and another group received less African American mug
shots (40.3% African American; 31.8% White). Participants were bothered that
the Federal Judge ruled NYC’s “Stop and
Frisk” policy to be unconstitutional. “If you had been approached by
someone and asked to sign a petition like the one you just read, would you have
signed it?” They had a choice of “yes” or “no.” The group with more African
Americans was significantly less likely to sign the petition with a 12%
approval rate, while the group with less African Americans was more likely to
sign with a 33% approval rate. The dynamic between race, crime, and criminal
justice reform is very similar.

 

African
Americans are more likely to go to prison for crimes they did not commit
themselves. Reflect back on the ratio of African American criminals to White
criminals. As referenced by Mother Jones, “In
regards to that ratio 166 convicted people were vindicated by the courts in
twenty-five states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico” (Mother Jones,
2016). This set a new record for exonerations. Exonerations refers to the
action of officially absolving someone from blame or the release of someone
from a duty or obligation. African Americans are more likely to serve time in
prison for crimes they did not commit over their White counterparts. In the
National registry of Exonerations new report, Race and Wrongful Convictions in
the United States, according to Mother Jones,  “African Americans comprise only 13
percent of the population, however they comprise 47 percent of those who were
exonerated” (Mother Jones, 2016).  
African Americans are convicted for many crimes but the three most
frequent for exonerations are murder, sexual assault, and drug crimes. African
American people are seven times more likely to be wrongfully accused of murder
than White people. African American exonerated cases are 22% more likely to
involve the police over Whites. For example, one should review a case on Walter
McMillian. Walter McMillian was sentenced to life in prison in 1988 for killing
a white woman. The event took place in Monroeville, Alabama. The South of
United States has been known for their racism, disparity, and unequal treatment
since Jim Crow Laws. The only evidence against him was a testimony by Ralph
Myers. Police stated that McMillian helped him murder the woman, and that there
were witnesses to testify. “Despite
6 alibi witnesses who said he was at a fish fry at the time of the murder the
mostly white jury sentenced McMillian to life in prison as stated by Mother
Jones” (Mother Jones, 2016).  The judge overruled and eventually sentenced
him to death. A few years later the lawyer of McMillian discovered a recording
of Ralph Myers. The recording of Ralph Myers contained him complaining that officers
coerced him to implicate McMillian, which represents corruption within that
police system. One cans inference that the Monroeville, Alabama police
department has systemic roots of disparity against African Americans. In regards
to these same standards, an African American is serving time for sexual assault
is 3.5% more likely to be innocent compared to Whites.

The
Women Donors Network’s Reflective Democracy Campaign analysis entitled “Justice
for all?” showed that 95% of elected prosecutors in the United States are
white, and 79% of those are men. This explained that there is an unequal
imbalance with those who have great power within the criminal justice system
and who they are elected to be representatives of.  Prosecutors have a large influence on the
pursuit of justice in America, but 79% are White men who have no idea what life
is like for most Americans. A Prosecutor’s job is to decide whether or not to
pursue a criminal case; he then determines if the offender(s) should be charged
as a misdemeanor or a felony, and then whether or not prison time is to be
served and for how long. Positions responsible for prosecutions can take the
form of County District Attorney’s to State Attorney General’s, which Counted
2,437 elected prosecutors in office of summer 2014. They matched race and
gender to those using voter file records, direct inquiry, and review of
public-accessible resources. Prosecutor elections take place in off year
elections when voter population is lowest. This means that checks and balances
are lacking for these strong positions due to not being subject to the
democratic system. According to a professor at Wake Forest University School of
Law, whom is Ronald Wright, stated 85% of incumbent prosecutors are unopposed. Is
this Justice for all? Research was released for a conference call with national
organizations that is connected to elected prosecutors including Bryan
Stevenson, Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative, who provides
representation to those denied fair and just treatment in the legal system.
Also including Lynn Paltrow, Executive Director of National Advocates for
Pregnant Women, who works to gain the human rights of pregnant and parenting
women particularly those of low income or of color who are easily more
vulnerable to the states control and their punishments. Other information found
by Justice for All? Showed that ? of all states have no elected African
American prosecutors. In 15 states all prosecutors are predominately White. Besides
Mississippi and Virginia, 1% of prosecutors are African American. Latinos
create 17% of the population, but 1.7% are elected prosecutors. In only New
Mexico are White men less than 50% of Prosecutors. Lastly, Maine is the only
state where women prosecutor percentages match the percentage of the population
of 50%. There is a clear sign with this research that African Americans are not
the only minority targeted more than Whites due to not being represented
properly, wrongful conviction, and judgement based on race and wealth. 

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