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Differential Treatment and Wrongful Convictions Essay


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Differential Treatment and Wrongful Convictions

Differential Treatment

In the United States, the majority of people of color are discriminated when they are in the criminal justice process. Indeed, the Black Africans and Black Caribbean are imprisoned, prosecuted, arrested and searched unreasonably. In youth justice system, South Asian groups are not well-represented justice system. The majority of African Americans women and men are overrepresented in prisons across the country (Pettit, Becky, and Bruce, 2). Juvenile justice systems have also been disproportionately represented because of racial or ethnic factors. The underlying cause of overrepresentation is because of decision to hold an adolescent in the detention camp awaiting investigations. In addition, most of the juvenile cases are waived to adult court (Poe-Yamagata, Eileen, 3). The decision of the prosecutor to petition a case also increases the number of Blacks juveniles in the justice systems. Similarly, the overrepresentation of people of color in the judicial system is because they commit more crimes as compared to the white youths (Pettit, Becky, and Bruce, 2). However, an analysis of the circumstances indicated that these young people are victims of racial bias in the judicial systems.

Moreover, it is contributed by differential police practices and policies. Most of police patrols are conducted in low-income areas and they target group offenders. Study by Poe-Yamagata and Eileen, indicates that Latinos are represented suspiciously in the juvenile justice systems. However, they are few cases of differential treatment among the Hispanics because they are usually regarded as whites. Studies show that young people of color especially African Americans are arrested and confined in correctional facilities more than the white youths (Poe-Yamagata, Eileen, 4).

Wrongful convictions

In the judicial systems sometimes, the innocent people are convicted of crimes they did not commit. There are various reasons for wrongful convictions, which include misidentification of eyewitness, snitches, poor lawyering and false confessions. Reports indicate that eyewitness misidentification is the highest contributor of false conviction. In majority of cases, the offender and the witness are of different races (Gross, Samuel and Michael, 2). In addition, poor choice of lawyers, prosecutor misconduct and lack of adequate investigations contribute to wrongful convictions. Payment of people to testify against the accused leads to wrongful convictions.

Most people of color are victims of wrongful convictions in the United States.  The minority population faces injustices in the judicial system. The racial factors influence the judicial investigations, and who is perceived guilty or innocent. The judicial systems shareholders use stereotypes that lead to convict disproportionately people of color with crimes they have not committed (Gross, Samuel and Michael, 8). Cross-racial identification plays a crucial role in convicting an unreasonably number of youth of color to prisons for offenses they had not committed. The use of DNA testing has helped in exoneration. The DNA testing confirms the racial discrepancies in the judicial systems. Since 2012, more than 250 persons have been exonerated using the DNA tests and the majority are Blacks. In the last 23 years, approximately 2000 people have been exonerated in the Unites States. Consequently, there are major flaw and inefficiencies in the criminal justice systems. The report also indicated that 92 percent of the exonerated were black Americans, while 38 percent and 11 percent were whites and Latinos respectively (Gross, Samuel and Michael, 8).  Therefore, the report clearly shows that black suspects were extremely overrepresented among people wrongfully sentenced. In addition, they contributed the highest percentage of those imprisoned and arrested for drugs offences and violent delinquencies.

According to Pettit, Becky, and Bruce, more than 45 percent of the prisoners in both federal and state prisons were blacks in 2000 and 38 percent in 2008. In addition, blacks contributed to 52 percent of all prisoners in the country in 2008. The exonerated individuals among the prisoners were blacks (Pettit, Becky, and Bruce, 8). Therefore, the rate of wrongful convictions among the people of color is high in the United States (Gross, Samuel and Michael, 8). The differential treatment begins early in the process of juvenile or criminal justice and increases as it progresses. Since, people of color are less likely to get justice as compared with the whites they are more likely to be convicted unjustly.

Differential treatment of people of color begins with the decision to arrest. Study by Pettit, Becky, and Bruce notes that federal and state authorities conducted more than two million juvenile arrests in 2002. Majority of these arrestees were African American at 36 percent (Pettit, Becky, and Bruce, 3). Since African Americans accounts for nearly 15 percent, the percentage of youth who were involved in the system were more than double the proportion of black Americans youths in the population (Nunn, 2).

In the decision to detain African Americans, figures indicated that those youths are confined in closed structures at a higher rate than in the referral population. In 2002, African American children contributed to 44 percent of the detainees while 31 percent of populations were in referral population (Poe-Yamagata, Eileen, 6). As compared to the white detainees, black Americans were overrepresented in terms of their referral proportion. In all categories of offences, the trend is the same but it the highest in drug offence cases (Pettit, Becky, and Bruce, 7). In the latter, black American accounted for more than 55 percent of the youth detained and only 32 percent of the referral population.

Research indicated that prosecutor are more likely to file a formal offence petition against people of color especially black Americans as compared to the white youths. Less than 31 percent of the African American involved in the referrals, 34 percent of petitioned charges (Poe-Yamagata, Eileen, 8). On the other hand, 66 percent of juvenile court referrals involved the white youth and 66 percent of petitioned cases. Therefore, cases involving black Americans youth were more likely to be petitioned than they were likely to be referred. In fact, Africans Americans cases have a higher probability to be formally petitioned than referred (Nunn, 3).

Cases involving African Americans are more likely to be waived to adult courts from juvenile courts. In adult courts, there are punitive punishment and harsher sentences than they are in the juvenile courts (Poe-Yamagata, Eileen, 9). In 2000, nearly 8400 petitioned juvenile cases were waived to adults’ courts from the juvenile courts. Most notably, many cases involving blacks were unreasonably waived to adult courts from the juvenile courts (Pettit, Becky, and Bruce, 8). Reports document that more than 45 percent of the cases waived involved blacks as compared to 35 percent of the petitioned cases. In addition, offenses involving drugs by the blacks were more likely to be waived relative to other races. For instance, 40 percent of the blacks’ cases were petitioned while 63 percent of their drug cases were waived (Nunn, 3).

Issues of racial discrimination are evident at the sentences cases of the juveniles. Most sentences send black Americans adolescents in facilities for residential placement as compared to the whites. Moreover, the whites’ youth are more likely to be sent in probation facilities relative to the blacks. Poe-Yamagata and Eileen indicated that 36 percent of the cases involving African Americans sentenced them into residential placement. Significant inequality exists between blacks and white cases at the disposition stage (Poe-Yamagata and Eileen, 5). A study by Nunn shows that a 53 percent of cases involving African Americans were directed to residential structures and only less than 35 percent were in probation. Contrary, only 45 percent of the whites were placed in residential structures while more than 65 percent were directed to probation (Nunn, 7).

The collective impact of racial discrimination in the juvenile justice system is explicitly evident upon entry of the housing facility of juveniles in the United States.  In this regard, most of the victims in these houses are people of color. Since 1997, youth of color contribute to more than two thirds of detainees (Pettit, Becky, and Bruce, 10). African Americans have the highest percentage (40 percent) of people in the residential facilities as compared to any other races. Approximately, three times of the blacks’ youth population are in these facilities (Nunn, 8).

Moreover, decision made in the early stages of judicial process suggest high rate of racial discrimination. Similarly, decisions are made to considering the interests of the whites at the expense of the people of color (Nunn, 9). Ultimately, there is need of better mechanism to address racial bias in the judicial systems.




Work Cited

Pettit, Becky, and Bruce Western. “Mass imprisonment and the life course: Race and class inequality in US incarceration.” American Sociological Review 69.2 (2004): 151-169. Print.

Poe-Yamagata, Eileen. And justice for some: Differential treatment of minority youth in the justice system. DIANE Publishing, 2009. Print.

Nunn, Kenneth B. “Child as Other: Race and Differential Treatment in the Juvenile Justice System, The.” DePaul L. Rev. 51 (2001): 679. Print.

Gross, Samuel R., and Michael Shaffer. “Exonerations in the United States, 1989–2012 Report by the National Registry of Exonerations.” Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Law School (2012). Print.