The Social Issue of Racial Ethnicity Over Representation of Minority Youth in American Criminal Justice System
TheSocial Issue of Racial Ethnicity: Over Representation of MinorityYouth in American Criminal Justice System
Americancriminologists, policy makers and journalists alike have long beeninvolved in the debate of the issue of overrepresentation of theminorities in the criminal justice system. The debate is long anddates back to the 19thcentury. Many studies have found that despite the minorities havingsmaller proportions in the general population, they make asignificantly large percentage of the individuals in confinement. Inparticular, the young people from the minority groups such as theAfrican-American, Latino, Hispanics and the colored are the mostaffected group, with overrepresentation in the criminal justicesystem (Balesand Piquero 742).Researchers have pointed out that the main causes of theoverrepresentation include policies often die in the process ofimplementation, inadequate funding for extra-judicial programs andlimitations in coordination across various government and stateagencies and departments required to address the issues behind theproblem (Balesand Piquero 742).
Currently,it is widely agreed among the researchers and policymakers that theoverrepresentation of the black and Hispanic minorities is a socialproblem affecting the society. In particular, it is agreed that raceand ethnicity determine the chances of an individual going to prison.For instance, relative to their representation in the nationalpopulation, Hispanics and African-Americans are far more likely to bestopped by police, searched, questioned and sent to prison comparedto the majority whites. Studies indicate that African-Americans makeabout 40% of the entire state and federal inmates in the country.Similarly, Hispanic prisoners are about 20% of the entire populationof inmates in the country. This is worrying because African Americansare about 12% while Hispanics are about 14% of the entire populationin the US (Balesand Piquero 742).Further, statistics indicate that African Americans outnumbered thewhites in the national and state prisons, despite their numbers beingless by three times in the general population. In addition, studiesindicate that about 30% of the black people in the US are likely togo to jail in their lifetime compared to 5% only of the whites.Consequently, it is agreed that the large probability of being takento jail and the overrepresentation of the minority groups in thecriminal justice system is a social problem in the country. It isargued that the disparities reflect a systematic racial policy in thejudicial system that discriminates the minorities while favoring themajority.
Theindividuals and other parties that are developing a growing concernon the large rate of misrepresentation of the minority blacks andHispanic in the criminal justice system come from a diversebackground. In fact, researchers, policymakers, political leaders,journalists and other parties have shown equal concern in theproblem. It is clear that both the conservatives and liberals equallyagree that the criminal justice system is discriminatory in natureand does not favor the minorities.
Despitethe statistical evidence showing that there is an overrepresentationof Hispanics and African Americans in the criminal justice system,there are few parties that argue that it is not a social problem.Rather, they argue that the large numbers of minority prisoners inthe criminal justice system shows the actual situation in thecountry. They argue that these groups are not overrepresented.Rather, members of the two groups are likely to face the law in aperson’s lifetime because they are also likely to commit a felony.They argue that the phenomenon is not a social issue related to theproblem of ethnicity, but a reflection of the actual behaviors of thedifferent races. According to this model, being an African Americanor Hispanic exposes the young people to be a criminal based on theirsocial system and the methods of parenting (Nicosia,MacDonald and Arkes e79).They state that African American and Hispanic parents are less likelyto instill discipline in their children compared to their whitecounterparts. Consequently, it means that the children are far morelikely to end up in jail at least once in their lifetime compared tothe white children. Most of the people who hold to this belief areconservatives who still believe in the old stereotypic theory thatwhites have a better way of living and child rearing than the otherraces, regardless of their economic and social backgrounds.
Amongthe researchers, policymakers, politicians, journalists and otherparties that define the overrepresentation of the minority groups inthe criminal justice system as a social issue, the majority use factsand figures to argue the cases. In fact, as previously indicated, thepopulation of the white people in the US is over 70%, yet the numberof incarcerated whites is less than 20% in all jails. On thecontrary, African Americans are about 12% while Hispanics are about14% of the entire population in the US, yet the make about 40% and20% of the incarcerate people respectively (Harris,et al.191). In addition, with a probability of 30% of being jailed in one’slifetime, the minority blacks are discriminated against in thecriminal justice system. The pundits use these and other facts toshow that the system is biased and favor the whites while directlydiscriminating the minorities (Balesand Piquero 747).Further, others argue that the African Americans and Hispanics arefar more likely than the whites to be stopped by the police,searched, questioned and even prosecuted, sometimes for even somefelonies they have not committed. This adds to the large number ofyoung African American and Hispanic peoples in the national and statejails compared to the majority whites (Balesand Piquero 746).But those who oppose this concept argue that the whites are far lesslikely to face the law because they are also less likely to commit afelony in a person’s lifetime. They argue that due to other factorssuch as poor bringing up and poor methods of parenting, most AfricanAmericans and Hispanics are more likely to be involved in petty andmajor crimes compared to the whites, thus their large numbers in thecriminal justice system (Nicosia,MacDonald and Arkes e79).The mass media has become a major outlet through which these factsand figures are presented to the public. In fact, those who definethe problem as a social issue use the media to portray the rot in thecriminal justice system, arguing that it favors the majority at theexpense of the minority groups. Radio and TVs are awash with thiskind of information, especially during such crises as mass shootings.On the contrary, those who oppose the theory do not use the media,but like putting it in books. The proponents of the theory make useof the modern campaigns against racism to make the public aware ofthe problem and advocate for change, but most opponents are alwaysshy of expressing their views.
Bothsides seek to convince the public that their arguments are correctand factual. Proponents of the theory seek to convince the governmentand policymakers restructure the criminal justice system to reducethe overrepresentation of the minorities in the criminal justicesystem. They are mostly supported by human rights groups and otherenthusiasts.
Bales,William D., and Alex R. Piquero. "Racial/ethnic differentials insentencing to incarceration." JusticeQuarterly29.5 (2012): 742-773.
Harris,Casey, T., et al. "Are blacks and Hispanics disproportionatelyincarcerated relative to their arrests." Racialand ethnic disproportionality between arrest and incarceration. Raceand Social Problems1.1 (2009): 187-199.
Nicosia,Nancy, John M. MacDonald, and Jeremy Arkes. "Disparities incriminal court referrals to drug treatment and prison for minoritymen." Americanjournal of public health103.6 (2013): e77-e84.
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