How Do Race and Punishment Intersect?

image_pdfimage_print

One of the most relevant and important issues within the criminal justice system is the issue of race and implicit bias. Implicit bias is defined as attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understandings, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner. Is causes us to have perceptions about other people based on uncontrollable characteristics, such as race for example. The existence of racial bias in terms of punishment has been prevalent in the criminal justice system since before the civil rights era. However, as late as 1991 it was reported that approximately one fourth of black males in America were under the control of the criminal justice system. (Alexander 55). Brian Stevenson, a lawyer in Atlanta, Georgia, “was parked outside his apartment listening to the radio, when a police SWAT unit approached his car, shined a light inside and pulled a gun. –  Stevenson claims that the officers suspected him of theft and threatened him purely based on his race. (Fresh Air). As shown through the video in class, which highlighted implicit biases people have when confronted with a person stealing a bicycle, race is a major factor. The Sentencing Project states that one in every thirteen black males ages thirty to thirty four was in prison in 2011, where as were one in thirty six Hispanic males and one in ninety white males in the same age group. Although other factors apply to the truth of these statistics, the problem is rooted in police activity. According to Justice Department data cited in a report from The Sentencing Project, police arrested black youth for drug crimes at more than twice the rate of white youth between 1980 and 2010, nationwide. The Sentencing Project report largely attributes the racial disparities in both traffic and drug arrests to implicit racial bias on the part of the police. Clearly there is a issue with race intersecting with punishment, it will only be resolved when impartial bias is eliminated from the criminal justice system.Ferguson_riots_protest_Michael_Brown_1408066880422_7378974_ver1.0_640_480