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Racial Disparity in Sentencing


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Racial Disparity in Sentencing Racial disparity in sentencing in the criminal justice system is a problematic issue. Individuals often believe that racial disparity in sentencing does not exist; however, substantial proof in the criminal justice system proves otherwise. According to statistics of Marc Mauer, “unprecedented rise in the populations of prisons over the past three decades is a six fold increase, resulting in the incarceration of nearly two million Americans.” The breakdown of statistics is as follows: “One in every eight African-American male groups between 25-34 year old is a result of incarceration and 32% of African-American males born to society can expect to spend a term in a federal or state prison if the current racial disparity continues” (Mauer, 2004, p. 79).
Four reasons of Racial Disparity The four reasons for the flourishing continuance of racial disparity in the criminal justice sentencing process are ineffective assistance of procedural bars, and council, jury selection and venue, prosecutorial discretion, and juror racism (Tabak, 1999, p. 6). Research documenting states like New York and California prosecutions have board spectrums concerning discretion seeking capital punishment; however, these four reasons apply to cases, which capital punishment is sought. “Capital punishment can be sought for intentional murders which individual may commit during the course of a felony and the intent to commit murder can be formed instantaneously before the killing without premeditation” (Tabak, 1999, p. 6.) Ineffective assistance of procedural bars and counsel is a reason for the existence of racial disparity because “proving the ineffectiveness of procedural bars and counsel is extremely difficult to prove with the system that lawyers are ineffectual” (Tabak, 1999, p. 6). An individual facing capital punishment or life with parole may seem desperate to anyone he or she may choose to try appealing the case to about ineffective counsel. Although illegal deliberately to railroad or throw a case, proving racial disparity of sentencing with ineffective counsel or procedural bars may prove to be impossible of existence. Ineffective counsel is present throughout America and is an illustration when describing minorities originating from a smaller minority community of his or her racial minority. An example is the case of Johnny Lee Gates, a Black male on trial for accusations of rape and murder of a White female with a jury of White individuals, and the public defender fails to object to the selection process of the jury panel (Tabak, 1999, p. 6). Venue and jury selection is another problematic stage of racial disparity in sentencing. Location is everything phrase is often the painful truth for many suffering punishments because of the locations of a case within wrong communities or neighborhoods. Prosecutors often will choose venues for minorities in areas with more predominantly White jury results (Tabak, 1999, p. 6). The jury selection process is controversial and possess a problem in the selecting of a jury, especially involving cases of defendants of racial minorities because the process lacks the private questioning of jurors separately from other jurors. To illustrate the problems with racial disparity the two types of crimes, street crimes and white-collar crimes are compared to prove prosecutorial discretion exist in criminal justice sentencing. Cases’ regarding white-collar crime sentencing imposes lesser sentencing and charges than regular street crimes individuals commit. “Individuals lying on taxes to the Internal Revenue Services may never spend a night in jail or prison; however, an individual possessing a handful if illegal quantities of drugs may receive a sentence up to five years” (Mauer, 2004, p. 87). These controversial issues force questions regarding the punishments of equally heinous crimes and street crimes may contribute to harsher sentences than an individual committing fraud to the United States Internal Revenue Service. Racial disparity also exists with a fourth problematic issue regarding racist jurors. Racial disparity in the sentencing process of the criminal justice system also exists because of racial jurors. To eliminate the suspensions of racial disparity of racial jurors the jury will select at least one African-American to serve for the jury. A percentage of African-Americans oppose capital punishment (Tabak, 1999, p. 6). Prosecutors commonly discriminate against African-Americans during challenges of discretions and blatantly abuse the powers of prosecutors. Juries predominantly use more Whites in every trial is inappropriate on the levels of the criminal justice system. Americans have rights to a trial by jury of peers and has the right not to exclude minorities in the selection of a jury. Excluding minorities in a jury of an individual’s peers is a violation of an objective and fair trial for a defendant. The case of William Hance is an example of racial disparity of sentencing. Jurors of the case were majority White, with one African-American juror, which was not for the sentencing of capital punishment as a verdict. However, the single vote of the African-American voter was falsely stated by the foreperson at the trail, the sole African-American juror was afraid to state the false results until after the defendant was executed (Tabak, 1999, p. 7). Whether minority or not, racial disparity in sentencing exists within sentencing defendants. Research states nationwide 90% of individuals convicted for violations of crack cocaine are African-American, whereas Whites convicted prefers powdered cocaine (Kennedy, 1996, p. 19). Many believe punishments for cocaine are harsher and assume that crack is the same as the powder, with additions of baking soda (Kennedy, 1996, p. 18). Federal law currently imposes, “a harsher prison sentence for crack cocaine possession cases” (Boies & Gorton, 1999, p. 52). The law, by many legislators, is believed to be unfair and racist. Investigating the punishments of possessions of cocaine, the problem is that crack has a higher rate of violence than powder cocaine because crack is generally the more addictive, cheaper, easier associated and distributed substance than the powder cocaine” (Kennedy, 1996, p. 20). Stereotypes, Society should discourage from stereotyping and take into consideration that most assumptions are results of a stereotype. The result of stereotypes perceives that jail or prison stays are almost an “obligatory stage in a young African-American males’ life cycle” (Mauer, 2004, p. 80). A use of “white stereotypes” of an African-American criminal have portrayed even the most upstanding of Black citizens as “menaces” of society (Kennedy, 1996, p. 20). The issue with “white stereotypes” is the lasting impacts these stereotypes have on the Black Americans in society. These stereotypes try to perceive the African-Americans as crack dealers, or drug users and that these stereotypes represent the entire African-American community, which is a disgrace because not all African-Americans are drug dealers. Many are outstanding, professional, upstanding citizens. Human nature often influences forgiving the negative experiences in life and some assume because one bad experience occur a certain way or with a particular minority that should be the way that society perceives it will always be. Experiences are often unique and society must learn to push negative preconceive experiences aside and work objectively to reverse the negative stereotypes and notions that individuals certain minorities are identical. Black Americans are not entirely responsible for the committing crimes in the United States and perceptions of minorities by society deserve knowledge and facts on such stereotyping. “Courts authorize law enforcement to disrespect a person’s race -typically blackness- as a proxy for an increase in likelihood for misconduct” (Kennedy, 1996, p. 20). These stereotypes fuel these continuing perceptions and fears into deeper issues regarding the racial disparity of sentencing. The strong statistics suggest the estimate of Blacks and Hispanics receive the stronger, longer, and harsher sentencing that the White counterparts, although convictions of the same or similar criminal record (Silas, 1983, p. 1355). Statistics also prove Blacks and Hispanics serve a greater part of the sentencing in comparison with the White counterparts (Silas, 1983, p. 1355). California imposes sentences six and half months longer to Hispanics, one and half months longer for Blacks than when comparison to Whites. A criminal regardless of race, gender, sex, or ethnic background should receive punishments in excess to the majority of the counterparts, whether racial minority or White the sentence should represent the severity of the crime. However, society must realize that racial disparity is a problem in the criminal justice system, therefore, improvements to correct such actions, behaviors, and stereotypes requires encouragement and determination of each party. Without change, the African-American communities will continue to take justice into his or her hands to avoid the possibly of another African-American male to encounter jail or prison. Unfortunately, racial disparity exists in the criminal justice system and until society realizes that it is problematic issue, racial disparity will continually worsen. Racial disparities four critical points of the problematic issues have consequently never have been addressed by a criminal justice system. The use of ineffective prosecutorial bars, and counsel, prosecutorial discretion, venue and jury selection as well as racial jurors require monitoring, mentoring, suggesting, improving, and a focus to each minority group. Without acceptance, acknowledgement, encouragement, understanding, willingness to make a difference the stereotyping, perceptions, judgmental, and misguidance of information, society will continue the path of presuming the worst in African-Americans and other minorities other than the White counterparts. Observations, statistics, research, and knowledge prove racial disparity is existence in the criminal justice system; however, often covered up to ensure hidden beliefs that racial disparity is absent from actions of the criminal system. Unfortunately, stereotypes influence reactions, actions, focus, harm, and cloud judgments of the truth under the cover-ups of the justice system. Through research, history, observation, knowledge, and education an individual may turn the page to fix the underlying issues regarding the racial assumptions, disparities, stereotypes, or perceptions of minorities in the criminal justice system. The four factors of racial disparity occur in the sentencing process without many acknowledging the existence and the damages that racial disparity, discrimination, or racism creates for the minorities throughout the world. Stereotypes discourage truth to society and focus on the negative perceptions whether the minorities are good or bad. Sentencing is not about the color of skin, ethnic background, sex, gender, or community and neighborhood; the sentencing should focus on the evidence, facts, and severity of the crime instead of stereotyping because of the minority of whether that individual is of minority or white. Most individuals understand the important of the criminal justice system; however, a judgment basing on racial disparity or relations to race is not an appropriate focus to sentence a defendant without examining the truth to the entire story. Racial disparity is evident and exists with the walls of the system; however, controversially misunderstood. The focus of society continues to be with the negative experiences, stereotypes, and failures of minorities when society will continue the path without change.

Boies, J., Gorton, J. (1999) Sentencing Guidelines and Racial Disparity across Time: Pennsylvania Prison Sentences in 1977, 1983, 1992 and 1993 * 37-54. Retrieved September 25, 2011 from EBSCO Host database.
Kennedy, R. (1996) Is Everything Race? The New Republic, 18-21. Retrieved September 25, 2011 from EBSCO Host Database.
Mauer, M. (2004) Race, Class, and the Development of Criminal Justice Policy, Review Of Policy Research, Volume 21, Number 1, 79-92. Retrieved September 25, 2011 from EBSCO Host database.
Silas, F. (1983) Serving time: Sentencing Disparities Shown, p.1355 Retrieved September 25, 2011 from EBSCO Host database
Tabak, R. (1999). Racial Discrimination in Implementing the Death Penalty. Human Rights 5-8. Retrieved September 25, 2011 from EBSCO Host database.

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