Nalu Services believes there is an injustice in the world and unfortunately, many people have not been exposed to the statistics and facts that plague the criminal justice system. The senseless and tragic death of George Floyd has shined a light on it, however, the roots go much deeper. In 2018 I wrote the following position piece on institutional discrimination within the criminal justice system and I wish to share it with you today.

Please take a moment to read it below. I truly believe that there are individuals out there that do not want to accept the fact that there is a divide in this nation. My Hope Is that sharing this data helps to open their eyes to the truth.

Hashtags like #blacklivesmatter and #nojusticenopeace and sharing on social media are so powerful, as it helps to spread the word and has the power to change the world.

Social Activism and Data Analysis

No matter how much mankind evolves, there are many things we still struggle with. Inequality and discrimination continues to haunt us throughout many aspects of society, including within the criminal justice system. There seems to be a large disparity between the arrest and imprisonment of African Americans as compared to their Caucasian counterpart.

Persistent racial and ethnic profiling continues in the United States. This leads to, and contributes to, institutional discrimination within the justice system. Even with racial profiling unfairly victimizing people of color,  I’ve often heard arguments saying it can’t be true because “more Caucasians’ get arrested than African Americans or any other minority”. This might be because 76.9% of the US population is white, according to the US Census (2017).

In a briefing by Leah Sakala, Sakala stated “Nationally, according to the U.S. Census, Blacks are incarcerated five times more than Whites are, and Hispanics are nearly twice as likely to be incarcerated as Whites” (2014). How can this be when Caucasians make up three-quarters of the population. In this position piece, I will attempt to make you understand our position on why we must investigate ways to end this discrepancy.  I will be using data from issues related to minority incarceration for drug use.

“Just the facts ma’am.”

Sociological Inferences.

Just hours before I began to write about institutional discrimination, I saw a TV advertisement about drug addiction. It has become apparent that we have a major drug problem in the United States and incarcerating people is not the answer, well not if they’re white. “African Americans and whites use drugs at similar rates, but the imprisonment rate of African Americans for drug charges is almost 6 times that of whites” (NAACP, 2018).

Below is a chart created by The Hamilton Project based on statistical data From the US Census and FBI. 

Factors contributing to racial and ethnic disparities.

The “War on Drugs?” or the “War on the Poor?”. It’s hard to decipher what’s really happening here. Since the criminalization of drug possession, “today police arrest more people for drug possession every year than for all violent offenses combined” and it keeps rising (Root B., 2017).

In the Documentary “Race on Trial”, I witnessed an unfortunate truth. A white drug offender was sentenced to treatment to help with his addiction problem and an African American was not offered the same deal, he was imprisoned.  Whether this was because the white American had better attorneys is irrelevant, one would assume these types of cases happened on a daily basis and both individuals should be treated equally. It’s nonsensical to assume just because one has money, they’re entitled to a lesser penalty. However, this appears to be how our judicial system works.

Public policies are linked to racial and ethnic disparities.

            Although many police departments claim there’s no quota for ticketing and arrest, police officers often work hard to reach quota for ticketing and arrest in the Police Department’s across the US to obtain more funding. In an article by Radley Balko, Balko points out that “arresting people for assaults, beatings and robberies doesn’t bring money back to police departments, but drug cases do in a couple of ways” (2017). He says the police have “misplaced priorities”  because these police departments compete for a “pool of federal anti-drug grants”. The more arrests and drug seizures each department claim, the higher their chances are of receiving a grant.

            From the DEA to the privatization of our prison systems, there seems to be increasing incentive to arrest and incarcerate the poor. The legal system has allowed it to become easy to incarcerate a poor person with limited funds for legal counsel. Using conflict theory as an example, it would appear the white man, rich and powerful, is trying to keep down minorities to maintain their level of power as they control the system.

The situation is extremely sad and now more than ever, we see police officers less willing to help and assist people in need. They’re more focused on locking people up than helping the people they promise to protect. I believe the majority of people want to do the right thing, however, the people in power have their own agenda. It’s up to us to fix this and make things right.

The Impact of Institutional Discrimination

The impact of institutional discrimination within the justice system is immense. It affects entire families and in some cases entire communities. The unjust and unfair treatment creates a vicious circle when a member of a family or community is incarcerated.  Lack of support and money that individuals brought into the family and or community puts a strain on other members.  Children may feel the need to help out and in turn commit crimes just in order to get by as an effort to help out the family and the community they live in.

Single parents now have to work constantly just to keep up with the lack of income. But what about emotional distress when a loved one is placed in prison for a far longer period of time than someone that committed manslaughter? The punishment doesn’t fit the crime. There’s an imbalance in the system that must be rectified.  For far too long these victims and their peers have been suppressed and put through unspeakable turmoil and unjust tragedy. 

Policies and Strategies for Reducing Institutional Discrimination

It all boils down to data and statistics. We’re very lucky we have access and the ability to capture this information. It will assist us in making corrections to this devastating situation we are currently in and ensuring everyone is treated equally. First and foremost, the elimination of any grants and or funding based on drug arrests must  be put to a stop immediately and this money should go to funding departments with the highest victims of manslaughter and other horrific crimes.

Although there are number of policies already in place, there can be additional ones to reduce institutional discrimination, however, the world will never change unless people’s views of one another change. Perhaps a program should be started where everybody in the criminal Justice field has to go through a “walk a mile in a minorities shoes program”. It appears some of us do not have empathy for individuals that do not share the same skin color, speak the same language or worship the same God as they do. Perhaps a psychological exam policy can be put in place to test for this sort of ignorance.

It starts at the arrest, policies should be put in place where we look at police officers arrest records and use statistical data to ensure that there is no patterns of discrimination. If there is a detection of discrimination, the arresting officer must be charged with a crime and tried. We then need to look at judges and prosecutors to see if there’s a detected pattern. We already have statistics of data that shows blacks and whites consume and sell  about the same amount of drugs, however, blacks are arrested at six times the higher rate.

Using this data, we should be able to start with the areas (States, counties and towns) that have the highest rate of discrepancy between population and incarceration of minorities. Investigate and charge judges and prosecutors where data shows fit. New Criminal Justice employees will take their place and we’ll go through vigorous cultural diversity training and be evaluated to ensure they treat everyone equally.

Conclusion

            I hope this information and data saddens you as much as it saddens me. No matter what we look like or who we pray to and love, we’re all human.  It is appalling to know that people are being mistreated because they’re not white. What’s the point of a justice system when it is unjust. We need to not only make a drastic change, we need to ensure that change is successful.

References

United States Census Bureau (2017). QuickFacts. Retrieved from

https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/US/RHI225216#viewtop

Sakala, L. (May 28, 2014). State-by-State incarceration rates by Race/Ethnicity. Retrieved

from https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/rates.html

Race on trial [Video file]. (2002). Retrieved April 19, 2018, from

https://fod.infobase.com/PortalPlaylists.aspx?wID=-1&xtid=30087

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). (2018). Criminal 

justice fact sheet. Retrieved from http://www.naacp.org/criminal-justice-

fact-sheet/

Brian, R. (2017). A Return to the Failed ‘War on Drugs’ in the US? Retrieved from

https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/03/16/return-failed-war-drugs-us

Balko, R. (Dec 06, 2017). Driven By Drug War Incentives, Cops Target Pot Smokers, Brush

Off Victims Of Violent Crime. Huffington Post. Retrieved from

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/21/drug-war-incentives-police-violent-crime_n_1105701.html