RACIAL INEQUALITIES IN THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM
RACIAL INEQUALITIES IN THE
CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM
July 30, 2020,
Dr. Jorge Valdés
To truly understand the need for justice and social reform in America and why the absence of it is a great contributor to the destruction of communities of color, one must first understand the racial inequality in the criminal justice system.
Racial disparities in the U.S. criminal justice system exist. In their report to the United Nations, the Sentencing Project stated that the data shows it clearly. African American adults are almost six times more likely to be incarcerated than whites, and Hispanics are about three times as likely as whites to also be incarcerated.
One in every three black boys born about 20 years ago can be expected to go to prison in his lifetime, compared to one in seventeen white boys. This statistic is devastating and virtually prophesies how the criminal justice system is bent with a bias toward keeping African Americans entrapped in a vicious cycle.
The Equal Justice Initiative has revealed data that shows how the United States has erupted with a lock-‘me-up, mass incarceration culture, which has been particularly harmful to minority communities.
Although the U.S. only has about 5% of the world population, our country thas the highest incarceration rate in the world, approximately one-fourth of the incarceration population of the world.
Incarceration is more than 500% higher overall than it was four decades ago. In 2015, $87 billion was spent on prisons, compared to $7.4 billion spent in 1975.
People who cannot afford expensive legal representation are usually crushed under the criminal justice system, either through a wrongful conviction or an excessive sentence, which they would not have gotten if they had had the money to fight it.
Underserved communities with low-income residents are inevitably affected because members of their communities cannot get a fair or just hearing in court.
Families are torn apart, so it is no surprise that pundits point to the issue of "fatherlessness" or that there is a seven-time greater chance that the child of a convicted felon will end up in prison, too.
Equal Justice Initiative reports that approximately 10 million people, including millions of children, have a family member in jail or prison. More than twice as many African Americans have a family member in prison during their childhood than their white counterparts.
Also, the voices of millions of people are being silenced in America's political process. There are almost 5 million people who cannot vote in elections because of a past criminal conviction. Minorities, particularly African Americans, have suffered because of it.
The Equal Justice Initiative website includes a message that underscores an essential truth underscoring the data: "More incarceration doesn't reduce violent crime. Using prisons to deal with poverty and mental illness makes these problems worse. People leave overcrowded and violent jails and prisons more traumatized, mentally ill, and physically battered than they went in."
The Center of American Progress defines mass incarceration as a form of structural racism. According to them, structural racism is "a system of public policies, institutional practices, cultural representations and other norms that work in reinforcing ways to perpetuate racial inequality."
Millennials or post-Millennials African Americans are more at risk of running in with the criminal justice system than any other previous generation. A CAP analysis published in 2018 found that one in four black Millennials had a family member imprisoned before they turned 18 years of age. The rate is one in three for those born thirty years ago.
The problem we see upfront and close with all the unrest and demonstrations in America today is a problem that is impacted, if not created, by the criminal justice system. Mass incarceration, fueled by an ill-conceived "war on drugs" and twisted by an imbalanced "tough on crime" stance, has been having an indelible racial impact. According to the Equal Justice Initiative, 70% of American prisoners – a group that is more than two million in total - are non-white. One in every nine black men under the age of 25 live under what the Equal Justice Initiative calls "some form of restrained liberty,": specifically, in prison, on parole or probation.
To the African American communities across the U.S., the criminal justice system seems more like the "criminal injustice system."
I highlight all the above only to emphasize that all the demonstrations in the world driven by the Black Lives Matter movement mean nothing unless the Black Lives Movement admit the reality that neither they, nor African Americans and Hispanic Leaders, have done anything to change the criminal justice system.
It is great to demonstrate, and we need to, and it is good to see corporations and other rich people give to the BLV movement. Still, it will mean zero unless we fix a system that has been created by an unjust criminal justice system. Where was our Black Live Matters movement when these laws were created?
If we blame all the cops for the abuse of African Americans, and if we blame white people for the suffering of African Americans, it will do absolutely nothing to correct the root of the problem. I do not care if we get every white person in the world to love people of color; if we get every white person in the world to give every person of color an equal chance, none will do absolutely nothing if most people of color are in prison.
If we desire an honest debate, we can not blame all white people for the horrors occurring in our communities of color. Yes, we have been oppressed; yes, we have been given a horrific card, and yes there are many things we can say the system has done to people of color, but NO we can not say the system pulls the trigger when blacks kill blacks and when Hispanics kill Hispanics. I can say this because I am not politically correct nor do I fear anyone but God.
It's easy to blame others for our troubles; I can blame Castro for taking everything my family had and sending me to Miami to go hungry as a ten-year-old. I can blame him for many things, but what good will this do, except perhaps give me a poor little me attitude. True, Castro destroyed my family and many Cuban families, but it was up to me to get up, work my ass off, and make a future. Yes, I had to work three times as hard as my white brothers and sisters, but who cares, life is not fair, and if all I do is cry, I would still be poor and helpless.
African American and Hispanic Leaders must take the initiative and change the criminal justice system; they must rebuild our families and our communities so that our children do not become statistics. So our children can have a chance at being what God created them to be.
I will be blunt about this: I fear that some in the Black Live Matter our only looking out for themselves and being opportunistic. They only care about themselves and truly do not care anything about our children. If they did, why wait until now? This horror has been going on for many years.
Our children are dying in our dead communities. I am a Cuban who migrated to this country as a ten-year-old. I could not understand why people would hate a ten-year-old, but I did not dwell in their hatred, I did all I could to make a difference in my life. I created the future I wanted for me. It was not easy, and yes I worked three times as much as my white American brothers and sister, but you know what it did for me? It made me better.
Some of my closest friends are African American. Yes, we have been racially profiled by police, and yes, many times, we fear when a police officer stops us. Still, none of this compares to the fear we experience when we enter many of our communities, both African American and Hispanic. This fear must change now. We must take our communities back and give our children a chance.
We might never get many white people to like us, or give us a fair chance, but this must not deter us from being better and from creating a safe community for our kids, so every time they hear strange noise, they do not have to lay down on the floor. We should not fear that our children playing outside will be killed by one of us, not a white person, one of us!! I want to seize this movement and make a change for a better future for all our kids.
If we want to correct the wrong others do us, we must first start with cleaning up our house and correct the wrong we do each other. There should not be one child die because of a drive-by shooting by both African American and Latino gangs. What I am saying today, I have not read it; I have lived it. People might never like the color of our skin but is up to us if they respect us.
It is said that many opportunists will take advantage of this moment. Many will keep quiet and say nothing because they fear the consequences of social media. But, by God's grace, I do not give a dam what many will say, all I care is what God will say to me judgment day because I did nothing to help our children.