The Impact of Race and Ethnicity on the Criminal Justice System

The United States Supreme Court has granted suspects of serious crimes constitutional rights in an effort to ensure that the outcomes of the criminal justice system are fair. However, there is still a need for the US to take affirmative action to reduce racial prejudice and disparities in the criminal justice system. This can be done by introducing reforms in sentencing policy, addressing unjust racial practices, and advocating for alternatives to incarceration. The government has taken some steps to address the racial inequalities that exist in the criminal justice system, but these efforts have been limited.

This article will outline the racial disparity that is present at every stage of the criminal justice system, from arrest to trial, sentence, and post-prison experiences. Research by Devah Pager has revealed that whites with criminal records are treated more favorably than blacks without criminal records. The US Supreme Court has received amicus curiae reports from Congress and state legislative bodies on various issues related to incarceration policy and criminal justice. Government officials should also review policies that do not serve any public safety purpose but instead impose collateral consequences on those convicted of criminal offenses, such as in the areas of employment, education, housing, and the social safety net.

They should also promote similar reforms in the private sector. Disenfranchisement has been a result of the dramatic growth and disproportionate impact of criminal convictions. In addition to implementing policies that provide little benefit to reducing crime and impose large costs on people of color, policy makers and criminal justice leaders have been slow to address discriminatory policies for which they offer no justification, such as biased use of officer discretion and income-driven policing.

Luis Mersinger
Luis Mersinger

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