Essay on Sentencing Of The Criminal Justice System

Essay on Sentencing Of The Criminal Justice System

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Sentencing is arguably the most important stage in the criminal justice system. Policing strategies and prosecutorial discretion may decide who ends up at this stage in the system, but it is sentencing that allows these strategies and decisions to compound factors that result in a disproportionate representation of minorities within the criminal justice system. African Americans account for “13% of the general US population, yet they compose 28% of all arrests, 40% of all inmates held in prisons and jails, and 42% of the population on death row” (Harvey & Vuong 2). In contrast, whites make up “67% of the total US population and 70% of all arrests, yet only 40% of all inmates held in state prisons or local jails and 56% of the population on death row” (Harvey & Vuong 2009: 2). Additionally, Hispanics and Native Americans are vastly overrepresented in the criminal justice system compared to their proportion within the United States general population. Policies initiated in recent decades that targeted minorities at a much higher rate are largely responsible for these alarming statistics. Among these policies are mandatory minimum sentencing, “three strikes”, and the tough on crime sentencing model that resulted from the Reagan administration’s War on Drugs campaign.
Michael Tonry’s chapter titled “Drugs” from Punishing Race: A Continuing American Dilemma argues that the War on Drugs is responsible for the “massive racial disparities in arrest, conviction, and imprisonment” and more importantly, he posited that these racial disparities are the result of how the drug war has been fought (Tonry 2011: 54). Before an individual reaches sentencing in the criminal justice system, they must first be arrested. Public policy at the height...


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...mpaign. Minorities were already disadvantaged and “socially constructed as an ‘other’ which is both lascivious and violent” so they provided an already established ideology that made them suitable for punishment and ostracization.
In order to address and attempt to resolve this problem and relieve the strain these policies have placed on the prison system, not to mention how the practices tend to destroy community relations between citizens and law enforcement, American culture must undergo a makeover. Deeply seeded racism must be confronted head on and at all levels of society and government. Racist practices within the criminal justice system such as policing methods that disproportionately target and arrest minorities, mandatory minimum sentencing that deny judges the ability to make discretionary sentences as well as the “three strikes” laws have to eliminated.

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