Discrimination in the criminal justice process


Minorities in a race have been subject to untold discrimination for a long time now. In the united state the racial minorities of blacks and other races like Hispanic continue to face discrimination in the criminal justice system to date. Racial discrimination is prevalent in all the stages of the criminal judicial process. It assumed that these minority races commit more crimes but this is just an excuse and it is not true.

Discrimination in the criminal justice process

The discrimination of the minorities in the justice system starts at very initial stage in the system. This is the stage which involves the investigation of suspected crimes by the law enforcement force. The agents of the law enforcement force target disproportionately the minorities as the suspected criminals in their investigations. This leads to skewing of the racial composition of the individuals that charged, incarcerated and convicted. This is calling racial profiling which means identifying potential criminals on the basis of their skin color or their accent. Racial profiling is pervasive (Ortega 1998). The police during investigations of a suspected criminal activity are given substantial amount of discretion in regard to whom they consider a suspected criminal. For this reason the police most of the times exercise racial profiling in undertaking investigations of a suspected criminal activity. The traffic police for example tend to disproportionately stop black motorists for minor offences because they are presumed b the police to more likely involve in serious criminal activities. This leads to big number of innocent black drivers being subjected to humiliation and hassle of police questioning. In the process some are arrested and this results in a disproportionate large number of blacks to be arrested for some non violent crime which would not have been discovered the racial discrimination and profiling was not practiced by the traffic police. It is for this reason that there are more blacks being charged in the courts for traffic offences that the white. The federal court give their consent to a decree that was monitoring the traffics stops by the Maryland traffic police officers situated at the interstate 95 and the outcome was a shock. In a period of two years, between January 1995 and December 1997 the number of black drivers who were stopped and searched by the police was a shocking 70% of the number of drivers that were stopped and searched (Justice on trial). This displays clearly the equality of justice existing in the traffic system. These policemen do not act only on their feelings. They are also trained to act as so. The training film of the Louisiana state police department specifically motivated the department officers to make the traffic stops against a category of males of foreign nationals who were mainly Colombians, Puerto Ricans, Cubans and other swarthy outlanders. These studies pertain to the initial stops on traffic and the scenarios of pre arrest. Thus it is already clear that there is a minority number based on their race that is being singled out for being potential criminals. This doesn’t improve or change as the judicial process continues.

The prime victims of police corruption and brutality are the minority citizens. This conduct is not acceptable whatever form. However it is appalling that it is rooted to altitudes of racism. Authorities in Los Angeles in early 2000 were investigated a police corruption in the anti gang unit operating in rampart division. The results of the investigation revealed that the officer manufactured evidence. They also perjured themselves so as to come up with convictions. They also engaged in brutality to intimidate their victims. Lastly they were involved in the drug trafficking trade and they deported anti police witnesses through immigration and naturalization services. In this study it found that the black and Hispanic individuals are more likely to receive the violent treatment thus they more black admitting guilty of crimes they didn’t commit. From this data it is clear that the racial discrimination is prevalent at very early stages of judicial system. On the trial process discrimination is still prevalent. The public prosecutor has the option to deny a case from going to trial and thus ending the prosecution process. This discretion has been largely exercised on the racism basis. The public prosecutor tends to favor white and in most case they decide that their case is not serious enough to warrant a trial. This translates that the serious crimes are committed by blacks which is not true at all.

After the prosecutor if the charge is to be brought against an individual, he further decides where an individual is to be charged. The plea negotiations then commence. Here the prosecutor’s discretion is unlimited on what he gives when the defendant pleads guilty. It can be dismissal of certain charges or reduction of the sentence itself. In this case racism comes to play and most of the times it determines how lenient the prosecutor can be. According to the report by San Jose mercury news the extent of treatment of different individual cases can be stark. They presented a case of one white man and one black man who were both charged with fount count. This was one count of possessing stolen goods and 3 counts of burglary. Both men had never before been jailed, used weapons in committing an offense and were never involved in drugs. When they entered plea bargains, the black man was receiving an eight year sentence if he pleaded to al the four counts. The white man on the other rand was required to plead guilty to one count of burglary and receive a 16 sentence. (Justice on trial) This is another example of racial discrimination in the criminal justice system.

Sentencing is another aspect of the criminal justice system that is stained with visible traces of racial discrimination. Although there are laws and polices that are in place serving to ensure that the punishment given fits the offence that has been committed, a substantial amount of leniency is still applicable to the sentence that is to be given. The New York state division of the criminal system of services carried out a study on the sentences given. The study reveled that the more whites received shorter sentences on the similar crimes including the circumstances of the crime. The study revealed that about one third of blacks would have received much shorter sentences if the same treatment given to the white defendants was applied to them. The same study revealed if the blacks who were eligible to probation were equally with the white counterparts, the number of blacks who received prison sentences would be 8,000 an more fewer in that period of two years. The study in simpler terms revealed that blacks are sentenced to imprisonment in most cases than the whites for similar offenses. (Justice on trial)

It is important to consider why the minority races are discriminated in the justice system. There exist social aspects which are believed to be the cause of crimes (Lyuboy 2006). These social aspects are for example the upbringing of an individual and peer influence. It believed hat since many blacks are subject to poor upbringing and that they lack education. As a result they commit more crimes. As per an article by the bureau of justice, the black Americans form at most 13% of the population and also form 13% of drug users. Thus the drug use among the white is than it is among the blacks. On this note it can be conclude that the single reason behind having more racial minorities as criminals is that the agents in law enforcement discriminate them. Thus it is for this reason that they are more likely to be stopped on traffic, searched and eventually arrested. It is also important to look at the effects of racial discrimination in the justice system. First and foremost the existence of any form of discrimination in the justice system defeats the main objective of ensuring that justice is seen to be done. Justice is not racial discrimination. Racial discrimination is an injustice even if not within justice system. However it is far worse when such an injustice permeates in the same system that is put in place to ensure that it is done away with in other institutions. Thus a system which in itself encourages injustice cannot work to uphold that which it doesn’t practice within its systems. In other words for the criminal justice system to adequately see to justice it must rid itself of all forms discrimination which amount to injustice and includes racial discrimination. The consequential injustices arriving as a result of the racial in equality are far reaching. First it causes some people to go scot-free without paying for their crimes while others who have committed even lesser crimes are rotting in prisons. Sometimes people get different sentences for the same conduct and this is itself so unjust (Ortega 1998).


It is very flimsy and baseless excuse to say the minorities in race commit more crimes and thus justify the prevalent racial discrimination in the criminal justice system. It fascinates just how prevalent this problem is yet it has been ignored for the longest time now. Something needs to be done to end this stereotype so that justice is seen to be done within the realms of the justice system. Racial discrimination ousts the very existence of justice as justice doesn’t discriminate. Equal treatment of all races is what amounts to justice and should be seen to be practiced in the criminal justice system.


Ortega, J. (1998). Is there justice in the criminal justice system? New York: Norton publisher

Lyubov, M. (2006). A study of the criminal justice system. United States: Indiana University.

(2006) Leadership conference on civil rights, “Justice on trial”

(1997), “Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics” Bureau of Justice Statistics, United States Department of Justice

Dan W, (1995) “War on Crack Targets Minorities Over Whites,” Los Angeles Times