Izzy D. Minnesota

Reducing Racial Disparities in The Justice System During Criminal Sentencing

I believe the future president should make racial disparities between criminal sentences a top priority.

Dear Future President,

Naturally, you would think that the criminal justice system during sentencing would treat every person being prosecuted fairly and without bias, as this is the Justice System, correct? The definition of Justice - “Just behavior or treatment” - would lead you to believe everyone is being treated fairly. In terms of a person’s race, this is unfortunately not the case. Racial discrimination in the Justice System during sentencing is when someone of one race is given a lesser or a harsher sentence than another person of a different race, though committing the exact same crime. Common discrepancies in the Justice system are usually between white Americans and America’s minority. Statistics prove this to be true: “In most locations, the black incarceration rate is at least four times greater than it is for white residents. For almost half of states, it's six times greater.” (Macarow, 2015). People of different ethnicities all over America are affected by this type of racism, as this should not be happening anywhere, especially in America. I believe the future president should make racial disparities between criminal sentences a top priority. Millions of people are, or have been, sentenced to unfair amounts of incarceration only because of their race. This is a type of racism that can severely impact someone’s life, and the future president needs to realize how serious this issue is.

I feel that unfair sentencing between people in America is an often overlooked issue, as I had little knowledge of the discrepancies in the Justice System in America before researching this topic. Even though this issue is not usually discussed, I can assure you it is happening. People of different races should not be sentenced to extended periods of incarceration just because of their race. People being prosecuted are often judged by unrelated and irrelevant characteristics to the case, regarding not only their race, but whether they are unemployed, how much money they make, etc. This leads to bias, and therefore creating a dangerous environment for the offender, leading biased judges to sentence unfair punishments or extended incarceration periods. “Black and Hispanic offenders—and particularly those who are young, male, or unemployed—are more likely than their white counterparts to be sentenced to prison; they also may receive longer sentences than similarly situated white offenders.” (The Sentencing Project. 2013). This is important because many men and women of different ethnicities are subject to more intense sentences than white men and women, by being judged by elements that are not relevant to the case. I also believe that we should look into each judge in the case to see if they have a history of discrimination between people of different races while sentencing. In 2012, Law Professors and Economists at Harvard, The University of Chicago, and the University of Pennsylvania had conducted a study confirming that the justice system is in fact racially biased. This study had consisted of looking at different cases, the number of people of different races currently being incarcerated, identically situated defendants, and other factors. “Judges punish criminal defendants differently based on their race — and only their race. Specifically, judges are far more likely to sentence black defendants to prison than white defendants.” (Chettiar, 2012). This shows that in America when black Americans are on trial, they will most likely to be sentenced to time in prison, even if a white American commits the same crime and receives no time in prison whatsoever. This is why I think in America that people should not be sentenced to extended or more intense sentences because of their race.

Other people might disagree on my stance about racial disparities in the Justice System. Some people think that the Justice system is “color blind”. This means when a person is on trial, that no judges in America are taking the person’s race into account while in court and during sentencing. For example, someone might think that white men and women are more law abiding than people of color, so therefore they receive lesser sentences. They might also think that people of color always commit more serious crimes than white people, then resulting in harsher or extended sentences. “And the courts were not immune from such skepticism, either: while about 25 percent of whites disagreed with the statement that the ‘courts give all a fair trial.’ ” (Sides, 2013). This is important because this is how many American people think that there is no unfair treatment whatsoever during a trial. This is why someone might not believe there is no racism within the Justice System during sentencing.

I believe that the Future President should look more closely into the justice system, and make sure that judges give the same sentences for the same crimes. Even though sentences are taken care of on a case by case basis, there should not be a big gap between sentences for the same crimes just because of someone’s race. I think the Global Goal that connects to this issue the most to is Peace and Justice. This Global Goal focuses on promoting “ peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.” (The United Nations, 2015). This issue mostly connects to access of justice for all. The justice system has to be fair and just, especially during one’s sentence. If someone receives an excessive sentence in prison, that's an extended amount of time that they can’t see their family, friends and partners, not just more years in prison. These years are only sentenced because of one’s race, not because of the crime they commit. It might not mean anything to an unfair judge, but it sure means something to the prosecuted. Looking into this issue would help support the UN’s initiative of reaching the Global Goals by providing equality between all races, and reducing racism towards other people. This would bring more peace between people, which is what the UN strives to do. I believe reducing the racial disparities in the justice system - specifically during sentencing - is an issue that the future president should look into. This should be a top priority on their list so that they can eliminate another one type of racism that can strongly impact somebody who is subjected to it. It would bring people of America’s minority to really start to trust judges, and believe that they will do what’s right with their future. 


izzy D.

Chaska Middle School East

Mrs. Johnson's 8th Grade Global Studies

Global Studies class letters connecting national issues to the UN's Global Goals.

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