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Cultural Diversity in Criminal Justice Paper Gail Rener University of Phoenix CJA/423 Alan J. Hazen May 18, 2009
Cultural Diversity Cultural Diversity in Criminal Justice Paper This paper will be focused on racial disparity in sentencing. This paper will also focus on
reasons why racial disparity exists within sentencing. There will also be case studies presented in this paper. In society today there are a diversity of citizens, of offenders, and leaders within in the court system. However, race still plays a big role in the Criminal Justice system especially during the sentencing portion. Although racial dynamics may have changed over time, race still exerts an undeniable presence in sentencing process. “ This ranges from disparate traffic stops due to racial profiling to imposition of the death penalty based on the race of victim and/or offender” (The Sentencing Project, 2005). Here in the United States, African Americans criminals are over represented compared to their number in the general population. According to (Calderon, 2006) “the idea of a racially discriminatory process violates the ideals of equal treatment under law as well as under the constitution that these laws were based on.” Racial discrimination within sentencing is often a complex process in connection with other factors and producing racially discriminatory outcomes in certain situations. Racial discrimination has been a big part of this country for a very long time and just because things have started to change it do not mean people perceptions have changed. People who are in a position to hand out a sentencing may still believe this way. The world may change but not all people do change. Some blacks or Latinos who do not work may have this information used against them during sentencing, people are discriminated against for the littlest reason and that is a shame because other than that they may be a nice person. According to ( Burnham, Sen, 2005) “the compact for racial justice is a proactive agenda for fairness and unity in our communities, politics, the economy and the law. It offers concrete strategies and proposals to reverse racial disparities and move our society towards full equity,
Cultural Diversity Inclusion and dignity for all people.” Having fairness and unity in our communities would be very nice because everyone would be treated equal. Another thing is that sometimes people are
Treated less than equal because of the racial, ethnic, or gender group to which they belong. When people are treated unfairly it can have a negative impact on the way they view the world which is sad because they did not make themselves. People in society need to realize that people did not make their selves and that the person the color they are is not their fault either. Back to racial disparity, there are four reasons to why racial disparity continues to flourish. These reasons are: prosecutorial discretion, ineffective assistance of council and procedural bars, venue and jury selection and racism by jurors. According to ( Tabak, 1999) “these reasons apply in cases in which the death penalty may be sought.” When illustrating the use of prosecutorial discretion two crime types that can be compared include white collar crime and street crime. When people commit a white collar crime the sentencing imposed are normally lesser than the people who committed a regular street crime. Some sentencing is very unfair for instance people who cheat on their taxes may never even spend a day in jail. Whereas, people who had a small amount of drugs can receive up to five years in prison sure drugs are bad but so is cheating on your taxes. Why do people who commit street crimes seems to be punish more harsher than people who commit crimes that are equally heinous like fraud and hardly ever step foot in court? Well, here are a few more reasons why this problem may exist. Racial disparity is present within sentencing because of the way ineffective assistance of counsel and procedural bars. The problem lies within the fact that “proving ineffective assistance of counsel is structured in a way that is extremely difficult to show that a lawyer ineffectual” ( Tabak, 1999). A good example of this is a case where the defendant Johnny Lee Gates, he lived in a black community all his life
And he was accused of raping a white woman and the jurors who were listening to his case were all white. In this case his lawyer should have object to the jury selection process. When looking at this case more closely you can see that the lawyer did not care about his client court case and he already concluded that his client was guilty. Onto the next reason why we may see racial disparity in sentencing is caused by venue and jury selection. The phase “location is everything” can prove to be a painful truth for those who are punished for being placed on trial in the wrong neighborhood. “It is not uncommon for prosecutors to choose venues for the defendants which result in all white juries” (Tabak, 1999). The number two problem of selecting a jury, especially in cases involving black defendants is caused by the lack of questioning the jurors. Jurors normally give politically correct answers when they are being questioned and they hide their racism. However, behind closed doors things are different and they may show their true colors. With the use of wither spoon questioning method many black jurors are immediately excluded from the jury simply because they are against the death penalty. When a potential juror is against the death penalty they are automatically dismissed from the jury. In return this leave most juries to majority of white. The question that hurts most black potential jurors, those who would never be willing to impose the death penalty, and in cases of capital conviction would vote for the death penalty can be automatically excluded from the jury. “A large percentage of African Americans are opposed to the death penalty, this is in comparison to the general public” (Tabak, 1999). Discriminating against black Americans is not uncommon for prosecutors during their discretionary challenges. This power to use discretion can be blatantly abused by prosecutors. In the case of Albert Jefferson in Alabama, the prosecutor in the case used his discretion to oppose 24 of the 26 potential black jurors. Which is very wrong on all levels because we as Americans are
Cultural Diversity allowed to have a trial by a jury of our peers. The exclusion of all minorities in juries is a violation against a fair and objective trial for the defendant. When a prosecutor use their discretion to oppose a black juror the burden of proving they
discriminated against the black juror is left up to the defendant to prove. Which is a very difficult thing to prove because you cannot tell if they are racist or not. Since black potential jurors cannot be excluded from the jury because of their race they can be dismissed because of their views of the death penalty. This is why the death penalty is a bad sentencing. Seems like the death penalty was created to stop black Americans from being on the jury, because they most likely would not put their own race to death. Therefore, they are kicked out of the jury which is very sad. The last reason for racial disparity in sentencing is caused by racist jurors. There was a case where the defendant was a black man named William Hance and there was only one black woman juror for his trial and she was against the death penalty. The black woman juror voted against the death penalty however, when the head juror read the decision he left out the black juror vote and she was afraid to say something, when she did decide to say something she was too late because they defendant was executed. The racist juror has caused the defendant his life. This was a very sad situation that could have been avoided if someone would have said something but they did not and now they caused a man to lose his life. The death penalty should be abolished because the death penalty truly hurt people that do not deserve to be hurt. Bottom line racial disparity does exist during sentencing of defendants. “It is said that nation- wide 90% of those who are convicted for crack cocaine violations are black” (Kennedy, 1996). However, white people use powered cocaine which is just as dangerous as crack cocaine. People who deal with any type of illegal drugs should receive the same type
punishment because that would be the fair thing to do. By punishing everybody the same way the racial disparity may subside. Our society thrives on stereotypes so this should also be taken into consideration when discussing racial disparity. Society have made a prison or jail stay almost an “obligatory stage in the life of young black men” (Mauer, 2005). This shows further proof that we “choose to respond to criminal problems because we are racially determined. Many people in society view crime as a black problem” (Mauer, 2005). In conclusion, crime is not a black problem crime is a problem everyone should all deal with not just one race. Everyone as a society should start demanding to see changes within our Criminal Justice system. All of the reasons I have given earlier have not been addressed by the Criminal Justice System. I believe if they were everyone would see a big improvement in the way things was handled when dealing with racial disparity during any Criminal Justice procedures. We need to have this problem addressed as soon as possible. Prosecutorial discretion needs to be monitored with objective parties. Ineffective counsel appointed to defendants needs to be watched more closely. Jury selections need to be watched more closely as well. Last but not least racist juror definitely need to be watched more closely because racist jurors do not need to be on anyone jury. After addressing these problems there should be big improvements in the way different procedures are handled.
Cultural Diversity References Kennedy, R. (1996) Is Everything Race? The New Republic, 18-21. Retrieved on: May 17, 2009 from: EBSCO Host Database. Master, G. November 20, 2005. Racial Disparity in Sentencing. Retrieved on: May 18, 2009. From:
http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/14237/racial_disparity_in_sentencing_p g5.html?cat=17 Mauer, M. (2004) Race, Class, and the Development of Criminal Justice Policy, Review Of Policy Research, Volume 21, Number 1, 79-92. Retrieved on: May 17, 2009 from: EBSCO Host database. Tabak, R. (1999). Racial Discrimination in Implementing the Death Penalty. Human Rights 5-8. Retrieved on: May 17, 2009 from: EBSCO Host database.
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