It is well known that people who are not white do worse when faced with the criminal justice system. Race is one of the correlates of crime that receives attention in academic studies, government surveys, media coverage, and public concern. Research has found that social status, poverty, and childhood exposure to violent behavior are causes of racial disparities in crime. Finally, an important explanatory factor that must be taken into account when studying the disproportionate representation of minorities in crime is the socioeconomic status of minorities in American society.
Despite legislative and judicial decisions over the past few decades, African-Americans and other racial minorities are still as or more segregated residentially at the beginning of the Millennium as before the monumental changes of the 1950s and 1960s (Massey and Denton). The ghetto experience is typical of most African-Americans, and includes deep-seated poverty, unemployment, poor schools, and the lack of social opportunities associated with these transitory and disorganized neighborhoods (Hagan; Wilson). In fact, the various inequalities that exist within ghetto communities have been linked to numerous crimes, in particular homicide (Kovandzic, Vieraitis and Yeisley). The simple fact of investigating what biological, psychological or social factors cause some groups or individuals to commit crimes in a given society (the hypothesis of disproportionality) implies that there is a consensus between the different groups on how society should work, what laws should be enforced and how justice should be carried out.
The disparity hypothesis rejects this consensus approach by explaining why some races are disproportionately represented in official crime statistics and in the criminal justice system. The disparity hypothesis is based on the perspective of conflict theory. The conflict perspective sees the law as a tool used by dominant groups, those that have social, political and economic power, to maintain their privileged position over subordinate groups. The dominant groups include whites, the rich, and people with political connections.
Subordinate groups include minority races, the poor, and the politically abandoned. These subordinate groups pose a threat, and dominant groups use the legal code to prevent subordinate groups from usurping their power. Behaviors often adopted by members of subordinate groups are often penalized in American society, while behaviors adopted by dominant groups go unpunished. An excellent example is the disparity between federal guidelines for passing sentences for crimes related to powdered cocaine and crack.
Crack is the preferred cocaine product for poor and minority communities because it is less expensive than powdered cocaine. Crack cocaine is made from powdered cocaine and several benign substances, but it is less pure and therefore contains less pure cocaine than its powdered counterpart. However, the penalties for possession of crack are a hundred times more severe than convictions for possession of powdered cocaine. For example, a person found guilty of possessing five hundred grams of powdered cocaine receives the same mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison as a person possessing five grams of crack.
More than 90 percent of people sentenced in federal courts for crack-related offenses are African-American (Walker et al. This law, imposed by dominant groups, results in the arrest, conviction and imprisonment of thousands of African-Americans every year, and is a clear example of how the law is used to control and repress certain races. Once the seeds of crime are planted in a community, criminals and criminals, either directly or indirectly, teach others how to commit crimes, and the criminal substructure is passed on to future generations. Hernstein and Murray and their work have been largely discredited by the scientific community, but their approach to explaining the disproportionate crime of certain races proved popular and has some advocates.
Some minority communities seem to suffer a disproportionate amount of crime, and communities with a lot of crime are rich in learning environments for future offenders. This rupture results in a weakened value system and the capacity of disorganized communities to discourage deviant and criminal behavior is compromised. Overall, the UCR shows that racial minorities are much more likely to be arrested compared to whites, and other criminal justice data clearly demonstrate disproportionate representation in each succeeding part of the criminal justice system. The second theoretical explanation is the disparity hypothesis, which states that multiple facets of society, namely, the various stages of the criminal justice system, treat some races differently than others.
Control theory also plays a prominent role in explaining why some races are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system. Under the disparity hypothesis, the criminal justice system treats members of some races differently, and it is this widespread disparity and discrimination that explains why some races are disproportionately represented in official crime statistics and in the criminal justice system. However, American media, politicians, the public, and even criminologists tend to focus on street crime, dramatizing and potentially exaggerating the true racial overrepresentations of racial minorities in crime and the criminal justice system. This tension can cause people to use illegitimate means in the search for monetary success or to engage in other deviant and criminal behavior as a way of rejecting society's stated expectations.
However, both perspectives are used in the disciplines of sociology and criminology to explain the disproportionate representation of certain races in official statistics on crime and the criminal justice system. This approach argues that extra-legal factors influence various sectors of society and the criminal justice system. Biological and psychological positivism experienced a certain revival in the 1970s, when several researchers began to analyze the biological and psychological factors associated with criminality. Researchers believed that criminals were physically different from non-criminals, and considered that criminals were atavistic retrogressions that could be identified by certain biological characteristics or physical stigmas.
Studies on the relationship between race and criminal sentences have yielded conflicting results (Walker et al. .