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  • Ruva Kiara

The Injustices of the Criminal Justice System

Updated: Nov 22, 2020

The United States has the largest criminal justice system in the world with over 6.7 million individuals in some type of correctional facility and over 2.2 million incarcerated in federal, state, or local prisons, or in jail. And through this system, the United States has sought out the destruction and demise of black and poor Americans.

After slavery’s end in 1865, states with large black populations introduced a new type of slavery through criminal justice. This new system enslaved African Americans through forced labor. Statistically, 1 in 4 young black men between the ages of 20 and 29 are imprisoned, on parole, or in some way or another under the control of the U.S. government.

In contrast, this number for white Americans is 1 in 16. Also, African Americans make up 38.2% of the prison population while whites make up 58%. Seeing as how we only make up 13.4% of the population, while whites make up 76.3%, these figures prove that African Americans are disproportionately incarcerated.

African Americans are more likely to be arrested and convicted than whites and are more likely to serve lengthier sentences for the same or similar crimes. The United States criminal justice system is one that the government calls fair, as criminal law is both color-blind and class-blind. But by choosing to not see color, the system ignores the needs of two disadvantaged groups of people: the poor and the blacks.

Over-policing within black, Hispanic, and poor communities leads to disproportionate arrests and incarcerations. While drug offenses and usage are mostly equal between races, minorities have higher chances of being stopped by the police. Chief police officers have said that they see more violations that are a result of over-policing and police misuse of power, such as “Stop, Question, and Frisk” and “Broken Windows” policing in minority communities.

These programs give police officers the freedom to clamp down on petty offenses and neighborhood disturbances and to stop and frisk anyone who looks suspicious. Also, police officers are more likely to stop Hispanic and black drivers for investigatory stops as opposed to traffic violations. Hispanic and black drivers are then three times more likely to be arrested than white drivers despite the low contraband hit rate in black versus white drivers.

Justice is the quality of being just, impartial, or fair. Fairness is the impartial treatment or lack of favoritism toward one side or another. These two words are often used when referring to the criminal justice system. However, the word equity, which is the proportional representation within opportunities, must also be used. If a black man lives in a neighborhood full of crime, planted drugs, and a high police surveillance (as well as his lack of access to a strong lawyer), then he is set up for failure.

In contrast, if a wealthy white man lives in a suburban neighborhood with little to no police, where he has to go out and search for drugs on his own, then he will be given a slap on the wrist and regarded as a misguided young man. The two cases cannot and must not be viewed and tried the same. With the history of racism in this country, it would be foolish for one to view this system as fair, as equality does not equal fairness in this country.

Being a black man, woman, or child in America is having to carry an extra burden or weight on your back that you can never get rid of; it is not something that you can simply shake off, and it is something that you will always be judged for. When one sees a person of color, they see their color first and the person second. To have a justice system that claims to seek justice and fairness for all, yet disparages a man based on the color of his skin is hypocritical of a nation that values liberty and equality.

As a black woman, the criminal justice system makes me fearful of the future of my father, my mother, my sister, my uncles, my aunts, my cousins, and my future children. As a future mother to black children, I will have no control when the powerful “justice” system chooses to punish, arrest, convict, beat, or even kill my child as a result of the color of their skin. Far too many black children are wrongly convicted of crimes on a daily basis and have their lives ruined because of it. The criminal "justice" system continues to make us the enemy.

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