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If Being Black is not a Crime: Why Does Racial Discrimination Exist in the Criminal Justice System?

Racial discrimination has been the main entrée at everyone’s dinner table for the past decade. Nowadays, everyone has an opinion about racial discrimination; even researchers have agreed to disagree on many aspects of the question. While various researchers debate on the issue from various approaches, it is evident that racial discrimination is deeply-rooted in the criminal justice system. The term racial discrimination has been used interchangeably with the term “racial profiling,” and the evidence is shown in prosecutorial convictions. Racial discrimination is the result of cumulative unethical practices that have not been properly addressed or redressed within the justice system.These presumed practices include but are not limited to racial profiling, disparity practices, unethical police behavior, along with prosecutorial misconduct. While history cannot be adjusted, it is, however, important to retrospect in order to comprehend the underlying factors leading to racial discrimination within the criminal justice system. Initially, racial discrimination was fashioned in a legal model whereas race was used to control citizenry and individual rights. Such manifestation beamed through the Civil War, the age of Reconstruction and the era of Jim Crow. Have not we, as a nation learned enough from the past to realize the damaging and costly effects racial discrimination has induced to the justice system? Nonetheless, it is unclear whether racism itself plays integral roles in the justice system. However, researchers have largely concluded that defendants’ social status and prior records do play key roles in the outcome of a trial. Some people argued that such practice is pure racial discrimination and others believe it to be unfounded bias. Nevertheless, we can all agree that racial discrimination is not systematic and does not lead to automatic convictions. In other words, being Black or Hispanic is not a crime in itself.Findings According to criminologist Robert Staples, the criminal justice system was founded by Whites to safeguard their own “interests.” (Staples, 1975). He furthers and explains that more than ninety percent crimes committed by Blacks never went to trail, and that the alleged criminals have long been convicted without due process. Another study conducted by the U.S. Sentencing Commission in 1990 reckoned that Whites had a higher success rate at plea bargains than Blacks. (USSC, 1990).The 1983 RAND Corporation study found that convicted African-American was more likely than whites to go to prison, and received longer sentences. “This disparity,” the study concluded, “suggests that probation officers, judges, and parole boards are exercising discretion in sentencing or release decisions in ways that result in de facto discrimination against blacks.” A study comprising of 2,000 murder cases prosecuted by the state of Georgia during the 1970s, showed that defendants convicted of killing Whites were than four times more likely to receive the death penalty than those convicted of murdering Blacks. The study also revealed that black defendants who murdered whites had by far the greatest chance of being sentenced to death. The study also revealed that black defendants who murdered whites had by far the greatest chance of being sentenced to death.Racial discrimination is not solely shown in prosecutorial convictions; police brutality has also been linked to racial discrimination and according to Banks, surveys had confirmed that 960 Los Angeles police officers were in fact enforcing the letters of the law through bias behavior, and racist verbiage. (Banks, 2004). Hence, racial discrimination is not just a legal problem, but also, an unethical one. Before the issue of racial of discrimination can be properly addressed, it is crucial that this phenomenon be discussed through a double-edge analysis. First, it must be viewed and scrutinized from a legal aspect and secondly, it must be considered from an unethical facet. Often times, what is considered to be a legal act is not necessarily unethical and vice versa. Objectively, evaluating racial discrimination from these two angles will help design comprehensive measures to reduce racial discrimination and its impacts on the justice system.In 1985, Cornell law professor Sheri Lynn Johnson reviewed a dozen mock-jury studies. She concluded that “race of the defendant significantly and differently affects the determination of guilt.” In these studies, identical trials were simulated, sometimes with white defendants and sometimes with African Americans. Professor Johnson discovered that white jurors were more likely to find a black defendant guilty than a white defendant, even though the mock trials were based on the same crime and the same evidence. “Because the process of attributing guilt on the basis of race appears to be subconscious,” Johnson says, “jurors are unlikely either to be aware of it or to be able to control it during that the process.” (John

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