Ellie B. California

Racism in Criminal Justice

Racism in the criminal justice system is flipping a system meant to protect our citizens. It's creating an unsafe environment for entire races of people.

Dear Mr./Mrs. President,

When our country’s criminal justice system was created, it was meant to be a fair and unbiased way to prosecute criminals. Unfortunately, the racism that is engrained in our society and our lives created injustice in this system. Statistics clearly show that each step of this process, from arrest to prosecution, are biased against oppressed racial groups. While many movements have been created to end this injustice, most of them have been turned into subjects of controversy. This country was founded by a group of people who wanted to be treated justly, and we must continue to adapt to groups demanding justice or let the nation fall apart.

A good example of the biased criminal justice system is the arrest rates for possession of marijuana. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, the arrest rate for possession for White people is 192 per 100,000, whereas it’s a whopping 716 per 100,000 for Black people. Whether this is due to White people getting off the hook easier or Black people being singled out more, it’s unfair and it’s showing clear bias in a system meant to protect citizens. Also meant to protect citizens are our police forces. However, as ProPublica reports, young Black males are 21 times as likely to be shot by the police as their White counterparts.

Even if said young Black males are not shot and make it to court to defend their case, they must then face the fact that 63% of people who are wrongfully imprisoned are African American, according to the Innocence Project. In the courts, the weights are stacked against Hispanic and Asian American youths as well as Black youths. In fact, the Justice Institute did a study that showed that Hispanic, Asian American, and African American youths are 6.2 more likely than white youths to be tried as adults. Additionally, Black and Hispanic people make up only 30% of the American population, but 58% of the prison population.

While all these statistics are true, some would argue that they don’t show proof of racial bias in the courts. Some people argue that these rates are just because of increased crime rates in these communities. This, however, begs the question, “why?”. Why would crime rates be increased in Black, Hispanic, and Asian American communities? Could it be because, according to the U.S. Census Bureau Black, Hispanic, and Asian American people make up 62% of the country’s people living in poverty? The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that people living in poverty have higher rates of violence with a firearm, as well as double the rate of violent victimisation compared to high-income households.

Thus far, I’ve given a lot of statistics about arrest rates and racial biases in the criminal justice system. The two questions one should ask at this point are “what does it mean?” and “how can we help?”. Firstly, it means that our country is not showing our citizens equal opportunity. The Constitution states that all men are created equal. Giving all men unequal opportunity to show their potential is an injustice. What can we do about it? Well, there’s nothing we can really do to make the problem go away immediately. The path to equality is a rough one. While this is true, there’s a lot that we can do to make the process faster. One of the main things we can do is speak up. A Chicago Booth article states that showing people evidence of their racial biases can help lessen those biases. Show the injustice in the system. Make people aware of the statistics. Talk about police brutality against marginalized groups. Talk about the rate of kids being tried as adults. Don’t let these issues be swept under the rug along with the voices of the citizens crying for justice. The system is blatantly racist and it is vital to the country’s well being that it is fixed.


Ellie Bouwer

New Technology High School

American Studies

New Tech High's Junior class. This is a team taught US History and Literature class.

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