Criminal Justice Policy





Criminal Justice Policy

Criminal justice policy entails a lot of policies on law and order as well as justice. The justice system has three key components and they include the courts, police and correction. Criminal Justice System is an important aspect in the society as Police are tasked with the role of ensuring that there is law and order in the country. When you look at the manifestos, presented by all individuals running for public offices whether senators, governors or the Presidential candidates, most will have highlighted changes in the criminal justice policy (Tonry, pg. 1-8). The United States have quite good criminal justice policies but they are often quite far from the best. The key pressing issues often when it comes to these policies they often revolve around court of law includes sentencing as well as police brutality especially when it comes to people of color.

Justice system should be the most equal and fair system, however, it has had its criticism over the years. Researchers have often pointed out the link that exist between the justice system and ethnicity in America. There has been various research that have been conducted that indicates often when passing judgments or in determination of cases, ethnicity has had quite a huge impact. In America, minority groups or rather ethnicities have often felt that the justice system is often not fair to them and it seems to favor the whites (Andrew, pg. 39). The minority groups include African American, Latinos, and Asian Americans. In looking at the justice system, we will look at police policies, court judgements and the prison system so as to understand the correlation that exists between the criminal justice system and the link to ethnicity.

Police and law enforcers encompass the justice system therefore a look into their policies and how they affect ethnicity is important. For years’ police brutality has been documented and often police are seen to be harsher to people of color than whites. According to an analysis on FBI data, it was found that police are more likely to shoot people of color. In 2012, 31% accounted for police killing of black people which is a huge number. Racism has often been blamed on why police tend to use more force towards the blacks as compared to whites as well as existence of stereotypes such as African Americans are more likely to be criminals (Chaney, pg. 480-505). A good example is a video recorded in Spring Valley High, South Carolina showing how police brutally dragged a female student across the classroom sparking outrage. The action taken by Deputy Ben Fields was unreasonable in the sense that he had to apply the use of physical force on the minor creating a traumatic experience both to the student and other school mates. It is likely that if the student was white such an action would not have been taken against them. Another example is the George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin scenario. George Zimmerman is said to have reported that he had seen a black young man walking in a neighborhood that was predominantly white and had concluded that he was up to no good. There was a scuffle between the two that led to the death of Trayvon and Zimmerman would later defend himself that he was defending himself against a violent 17-year old boy. Such cases portray what is wrong with the justice policy in place.

We live in a world where we thrive on law and order and part of the order is often maintained by law enforcers including the police. In a world where there is no law and order then anarchy would really thrive which may pose to be an unfavorable environment to live in. It is for such reasons that often law enforcers play a huge role in a country and they have been granted the power to do so. In a country where democracy exists, police brutality should not be condoned as it results in mistrust among the citizens and the police officers and without cooperation between the two dealing with crime becomes difficult

There have been instances and actions that have portrayed how ruthless law enforcers can be to the minority group. There have been cases of police officers killing innocent people then defending themselves with the line that they though the victim was armed. There have dozens of cases of unarmed young men who have been stopped and later shot by police officers in cold blood. A good example is the murder of Trayvon Martin by officer George Zimmerman (Days, pg. 180). George Zimmerman is said to have reported that he had seen a black young man walking in a neighborhood that was predominantly white and had concluded that he was up to no good. There was a scuffle between the two that led to the death of Trayvon and Zimmerman would later defend himself that he was defending himself against a violent 17-year old boy. Another case is that of Oscar Grant who was 22 years old. On the New year’s eve, he was stopped by police officers after coming from a night out with his friends. Oscar complied with the police orders, raised up his arms, was unarmed and despite this he was shot in cold blood from the back by the police officers. This is a great example on how although stop and search policies were created in good faith they have been used to cause harm to citizens especially from the minority group. Aside from shooting, place officers have also often been notorious for planting evidence on victims such as drugs or guns in order to justify their brutality against the victim.

For years, racial profiling has existed in our justice system and the minority groups have been affected. Often, the stereotypes that have been created against these groups is what has constantly led to the failing of the judicial system. African Americans have often suffered wrong convictions and arrests in large numbers. This has been contributed by policies in place that seem to target the minor ethnic groups. The first policy that I believe has an effect on our justice system is the stop and search policy by the law enforcers. Police officers are mandated to ensure that there are law and order. One way police officers get to do this is through police stop and searches. There have always been controversies as to what extent the police can stop and search people. This controversy has often been linked to police racial discrimination as often people of color are stopped and searched. There is enough evidence a person of color is likely to be stopped and searched as compared to a white person (Bowling, pg. 509-535). The issue is not the law, but rather it’s execution.

People of color have also been victims to the judicial system. Cases of people of color seem to be mishandled and quick judgments passed at times. Let’s use the Central Park Five example as this is what is being talked on most discussions when it comes to discussion on the justice system and ethnicity. Central Park five was a case on five teenagers who were accused of raping a jogger. These children were threatened into confessing to these crimes and years later it was found that they were innocent as the person who had committed that crime had come forward. According to a research by the Innovations for Poverty Actions, 40% of people who were incarcerated were African Americans and the African American male were seven times more likely to be incarcerated as compared to the whites. The incarceration rates for the Latinos was also significantly high thus one wonders if there is discrimination I the judicial system.

Prosecution of police brutality cases have proved difficult often because police officers are people at power while the plaintiff is just an ordinary citizen. With the law enforcement there is a term referred to as the blue wall of silence. This is an informal rule used by the police officers that no officer should report their fellow colleague’s error, crime or misconduct no matter what. Blue wall of silence is used in the force to indicate that any police officer needs to have their fellow officer’s back no matter what and cases that go unreported including cases on police brutality. An example is during the trial of Officer Franciis Livoti who was facing the charges of murder for shooting Anthony Baez. Fellow officers testified of his innocence and while delivering the ruling, the judge pointed out that the officers had committed perjury thus he was unable to deliver a guilty plea verdict. George Zimmerman who had also been charged with manslaughter charges was found innocent by the jury and was released another example of how often police brutality victims rarely get justice (Kleinig, 2006). Most officers accused of police brutality instead of facing the wrath of the law are often dismissed or taken to another precinct. Most police brutality cases are often dismissed because of lack of evidence while some do not even make it to the court of law because they know nothing much can be done.

The United States judicial system has had a long standing principle that defendants should not be treated with contempt or differently because of their ethnicity and this is codified in the US constitution, 14th amendment “Equal Protection.” However, the matter of equality has been questioned through the analysis of sentencing as well as conviction rates by ethnicity. There is researcher who have defended the sentencing gap as not an issue but rather other factors come into play including education level, income and other factors that may not be easy to observe. Although this may be true there is evidence that race has been used especially in sentencing. People of color often get harsher penalties as compared to the whites. Whites were likely to receive a larger sentence reduction in a case as compared to the Latinos or the blacks because of cooperation with the police (Jordan, pg. 185-201). It has also been hypothesized that people of color are likely to be jailed before their trials thus resulting in them getting harsh sentences. Another aspect of race a sentencing is that a black or Latino is likely to receive harsher sentences if a victim to a crime was white as compared to a reverse scenario. The best example is a case in Florida under judge Sherwood who was overseeing a case with two suspects both of whom pleaded guilty to the same crime in the same circumstances. Most would think sentencing would be same or close but the black defendant was sentenced for 26 years in jail while the white defendant was sentenced for two years’ time served. The Sarasota Herald Tribune in 2016 had a series of articles titled “Bias on the Bench” with the aim that they would highlight the racial disparity when it came to sentencing and people of color are the most affected (Sarasota Herald Tribune).

There are several measures that can be taken in a bid to end police brutality. The first is a review of the stop and search policy. If the policy is to continue then it should be carried out in a manner that do not depict a picture that certain races are being targeted over others simply because there is a narrative, they are more likely to commit crime being peddled. Police officers should also have body cameras as part of their uniform so as to record their interactions with citizens. In case of a report on police brutality these cameras may serve as important sources of evidence to prove if a police officer violated a civilian’s right. There are precincts that are already using this such as New York and Washington D.C. Police officers need to introduce reforms in the system that makes it clear officers involved in police brutality and those who help their colleagues cover up for their crimes will face dire consequences including jail terms and termination. Cases against police officers should be tried by independent prosecutors and not the district attorney as most work with them and they may not be partial in the case. Independent Office of Police investigation should be given powers to prosecute and charge officers in criminal courts (Hickman, pg. 7-22).

In a nutshell, there has often been statistics that will purport that crime rate is higher among African Americans, they are most likely to be violent and are most likely to possess firearms. These statistics have often generated a certain stereotype among individuals where we tend to believe that all African Americans are violent. It is such thinking that has contributed to the police brutality that is often encountered by African Americans especially the male. The number of African American men that have been killed by the police simply because they were mistaken to be criminals or thought to be carrying a weapon are staggering high. This has been fueled by the arguments made by Otto that are biased that begins to associate violence to genetics or wants to associate lower IQ to race. The criminal justice system often gets to award longer and harsher sentences to the black Americans as compared to the whites who may have committed the same crime. Huge criminal justice need to be done in order to ensure that racism does not have its place in administration of justice and that every person is treated equally.

Works Cited

Andrews, Donald A., and James Bonta. “Rehabilitating criminal justice policy and practice.” Psychology, Public Policy, and Law 16.1 (2010): 39.

Chaney, Cassandra, and Ray V. Robertson. “Racism and police brutality in America.” Journal of African American Studies 17.4 (2013): 480-505.

Days III, Drew S. “Race and the Federal Criminal Justice System: A Look at the Issue of Selective Prosecution.” Me. L. Rev. 48 (1996): 180.

Hickman, Melissa. “Crime in the streets—a moral panic: Understanding “get tough” policies in the criminal justice system.” American Journal of Criminal Justice 7.1 (1982): 7-22.

Jordan, Kareem L., and Tina L. Freiburger. “Examining the impact of race and ethnicity on the sentencing of juveniles in the adult court.” Criminal Justice Policy Review 21.2 (2010): 185-201.

Kleinig, John. Police violence and the loyal code of silence. Violence and police culture. 2000 219-234.

Tonry, Michael. “Evidence, ideology, and politics in the making of American criminal justice policy.” Crime and Justice 42.1 (2013): 1-18.