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SOC FPX 2000 Assessment 3 Social Activism and Data Analysis

Social Activism and Data Analysis

Institutional discrimination refers to policies, practices, and behaviors within the justice system that disproportionately harm individuals and communities based on their race, ethnicity, or other characteristics. In this assessment, I will explore the issue of institutional discrimination within the criminal justice system.

SOC FPX 2000 Assessment 3 Social Activism and Data Analysis

I will analyze factors that contribute to racial and ethnic disparities within the justice system, assess the impact of institutional discrimination on minority communities, and examine a range of policy strategies for reducing these disparities. Addressing institutional discrimination within the criminal justice system can create a more just and equitable society that promotes greater equity and fairness within the justice system.

Central Tenet of Institution Inequality

The criminal justice system in the United States is meant to be fair and impartial, treating all individuals equally before the law. However, research studies have shown that institutional inequality exists, particularly in Black communities. 

According to Durante (2020), African Americans are incarcerated at more than five times the rate of Whites. This overrepresentation is a result of systemic racism, where policies and practices within the criminal justice system disproportionately affect communities of color.

Studies have shown that even when controlling for factors such as prior criminal records, the severity of the offense, and socioeconomic status, Black individuals are more likely to receive longer sentences than White individuals (Smith et al., 2021).

This can be seen in the case of drug offenses, where Black Americans are more likely to be arrested for drug offenses, despite similar rates of drug use across racial groups (Vo, 2020).

Data Analysis to Make Social Inferences

Some valid sociological inferences that can be drawn from research articles related to the central tenet of institutional inequality in the criminal justice system are discussed below.

Blacks’ Overrepresentation

One sociological inference that can be drawn is the overrepresentation of Black individuals in the criminal justice system is a result of systematic racism and discriminatory policies. Research studies have consistently shown that individuals from Black communities are more likely to be arrested, convicted, and incarcerated compared to White individuals. For example, Eriksson (2019) found that the number of incarcerations of black men was much higher than that of White over the study period. The finding suggests that systemic racism and discriminatory policies within the criminal justice system play a significant role in perpetuating institutional inequality and injustice.

Use of Force

Another social inference that can be drawn is that the use of force against Black individuals by police officers is a result of systemic racism and bias. Studies depict that police officers are more likely to use force against Black compared to White individuals, which can lead to higher rates of injury and death within these communities. This suggests that systemic racism and bias within law enforcement agencies play a significant role in perpetuating institutional inequality. For example, Edwards et al. (2019) found that police officers are more likely to use force against Black individuals, which can lead to higher rates of injury and death within these communities.

Factors Contributing to Racial Disparities

A range of factors leads to the prevalence of disparities based on race and ethnicity in the criminal justice system. Discussed below are some of the key factors that contribute to such disparities.

Implicit Bias and Stereotyping

Implicit bias and stereotypes are a major contributor to race and ethnic inequalities in the criminal justice system. Research suggests that implicit bias and stereotyping can lead to differential treatment of individuals based on their race or ethnicity.
For example, Lundberg et al. (2018) found that participants who held implicit biases against Black people were more likely to identify ambiguous objects as weapons when they were held by Black individuals compared to when they were held by White individuals.

Lack of Access to Legal Resources

Inadequate access to legal assistance is another contributor to racial and cultural inequalities in the criminal justice system. Research suggests that low-income individuals, who are disproportionately people of color, often lack the resources to hire an attorney, which can result in unfavorable outcomes in the criminal justice system.

For example, Zane et al. (2020) found that defendants who were represented by public defenders received harsher sentences compared to those who were represented by private attorneys.

Economic Inequality

Research suggests that economic inequality is a key factor that contributes to racial and ethnic disparities in the criminal justice system. Low-income individuals, who are disproportionately people of color, are more likely to experience arrest, conviction, and imprisonment. For example, Van (2022) found that economic inequality significantly predicted racial disparities in arrest rates.

SOC FPX 2000 Assessment 3 Social Activism and Data Analysis

Policies Linked to Racial Disparities Within the Criminal Justice System

The racial disparities that exist within the criminal justice system can be affiliated with or linked in a variety of different ways to the public policies. These policies are often rooted in historical and institutionalized racism and have led to the unequal treatment of people of color in the criminal justice system.

War on Drugs

The War on Drugs, a set of policies that aim to reduce drug use and drug-related crime, has had a significant impact on the racial and ethnic disparities within the criminal justice system. Studies have shown that drug laws and policies have disproportionately impacted communities of color, resulting in higher rates of arrest, conviction, and imprisonment for drug offenses. For example, Camplain et al. (2020) found that Black individuals were more likely to be arrested for drug offenses than White individuals, despite similar rates of drug use.

Mandatory Minimum Sentencing

Mandatory minimum sentencing is another example of public policy that has exacerbated racial and ethnic inequalities inside the criminal justice system. These policies require judges to impose a minimum sentence for certain crimes, which limits judicial discretion and often results in longer sentences for individuals who are already disadvantaged. Studies have shown that mandatory minimum sentencing has disproportionately impacted communities of color, resulting in higher rates of imprisonment and longer sentences. For example, Smith et al. (2021) found that Black individuals received significantly longer sentences for offenses than White individuals, even when controlling for the severity of the offense.

Racial Profiling

Racial profiling, a policing strategy that targets individuals based on their race or ethnicity, has been widely criticized for its negative impact on communities of color. Research suggests that racial profiling has led to higher rates of arrest and imprisonment for people of color, as well as negative interactions with law enforcement. For example, Pierson et al. (2020) found that Black individuals were more likely to be stopped, searched, and arrested by police compared to White individuals.

Impacts of Discrimination on Minorities

Minorities and have suffered gravely because of institutionalized racism in the legal system. This type of discrimination occurs when policies, procedures, and practices within the justice system systematically disadvantage certain groups of people, often based on race, ethnicity, or other factors.

One of the most significant impacts of institutional discrimination within the justice system has been the over-representation of minorities in the criminal justice system. Durante (2020) found that Black individuals are more likely to be incarcerated than White individuals. This over-representation has created a cycle of disadvantage, with individuals who are released from prison facing a range of barriers to re-entry, including but not limited to:

  • Limited employment opportunities 
  • Housing discrimination.
  • Limited social acceptance

Institutional inequality has had a major effect on the overall health and wellness of minority populations. For example, Williams et al. (2019) found that exposure to institutional discrimination is associated with increased levels of stress, which can lead to a range of negative health outcomes, including heart disease, diabetes, and mental health disorders. This stress also has broader social and economic impacts, as it can limit educational and employment opportunities for individuals and communities.

The effects of institutionalized racism in the criminal justice system on society at large are more worrisome in particular. This type of discrimination can erode trust in law enforcement and the justice system, which can create significant barriers to community policing and crime prevention efforts. This lack of trust can also lead to social unrest and protests, as seen in the wake of high-profile incidents of police brutality and other forms of institutional discrimination.

Strategies for Reducing Institutional Discrimination

Reducing institutional discrimination within the justice system is a complex challenge that requires a comprehensive approach. There are several policy strategies that can be employed to address this issue, including reforming existing policies, investing in alternatives to incarceration, and promoting greater diversity and inclusion within the justice system.

Policy Reform

One strategy for reducing institutional discrimination is to reform existing policies that contribute to racial and ethnic disparities within the justice system. This can include revising sentencing laws, reducing the use of mandatory minimums, and addressing racial profiling. Craigie and Zapryanova (2021) found that reducing the use of mandatory minimums could significantly reduce racial and ethnic disparities in the federal criminal justice system. The study suggests that policies that allow judges to use their discretion when sentencing would be more effective at reducing disparities than mandatory minimums.

Alternatives to Incarceration

Another strategy for reducing institutional discrimination is to invest in alternatives to incarceration, such as diversion programs, restorative justice, and community supervision. These programs can help to address the root causes of criminal behavior and reduce reliance on incarceration, which disproportionately impacts minorities. For example, Wolff et al. (2019) found that a community-based alternative to incarceration programs resulted in a reduction in new criminal convictions and a reduction in jail sentences.

Diversity and Inclusion

Promoting greater diversity and inclusion within the justice system is another strategy for reducing institutional discrimination. This can include increasing diversity among law enforcement officers and judges, providing cultural competency training to justice system professionals, and implementing bias reduction strategies. Feigenberg and Glaser (2021) found that providing implicit bias training to police officers resulted in a reduction in racial disparities in traffic stops and arrests.

Conclusion

In this assessment, I explored the issue of institutional discrimination within the criminal justice system by analyzing factors that contribute to racial and ethnic disparities and assessing the impact of these disparities on minority communities. Lastly, I examined a range of policy strategies for reducing institutional discrimination, including policy reform, investing in alternatives to incarceration, and promoting diversity and inclusion.

SOC FPX 2000 Assessment 3 Social Activism and Data Analysis

References

Champlain, R., Camplain, C., Trotter, R. T., Pro, G., Sabo, S., Eaves, E., Peoples, M., & Baldwin, J. A. (2020). Racial/ethnic differences in drug- and alcohol-related arrest outcomes in a southwest county from 2009 to 2018. American Journal of Public Health, 110(S1). https://doi.org/10.2105/ajph.2019.305409

Craigie, T.-A., & Zapryanova, M. (2021). Mandatory minimum reforms, sentencing, and racial-ethnic disparities. The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, 0(0). https://doi.org/10.1515/bejeap-2020-0215

Durante, K. A. (2020). Racial and ethnic disparities in prison admissions across counties. Race and Justice, 10(2), 176–202. 

https://doi.org/10.1177/2153368717738038

Edwards, F., Lee, H., & Esposito, M. (2019). Risk of being killed by police use of force in the United States by age, race–ethnicity, and sex. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116(34), 16793–16798. 

https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1821204116

Eriksson, K. (2019). Moving North and into jail? The great migration and black incarceration. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 159, 526–538. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jebo.2018.04.024

Feigenberg, B., & Glaser, J. (2021). Implicit bias training for police. Urban Labs Crime Lab Retrieved February 27, 2023, from https://urbanlabs.uchicago.edu/attachments/a11adfec96ff6054bc4146c1d366bdf26861fcc7/store/35ceee1c8a33feebad18b35aa80f7c55c435ce0f7f9e56d6cbee40b6bf27/Implicit+Bias+Training+for+Police.pdf 

Lundberg, G. J. W., Neel, R., Lassetter, B., & Todd, A. R. (2018). Racial bias in implicit danger associations generalizes to older male targets. PLOS ONE, 13(6). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0197398

Pierson, E., Simoiu, C., Overgoor, J., Corbett-Davies, S., Jenson, D., Shoemaker, A., Ramachandran, V., Barghouty, P., Phillips, C., Shroff, R., & Goel, S. (2020). A large-scale analysis of racial disparities in police stops across the United States. Nature Human Behaviour, 4(4), 1–10.

https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-020-0858-1

Smith, C. M., Goldrosen, N., Ciocanel, M.-V., Santorella, R., Topaz, C. M., & Sen, S. (2021). Racial disparities in criminal sentencing vary considerably across federal judges. https://doi.org/10.31235/osf.io/j2gbn

Van, G. (2022). An empirical analysis of the socioeconomic status of Blacks on police treatment and arrests: A Granger causality approach. Munich Personal RePEc Archive. Retrieved February 27, 2023, from 

https://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/112214/

Vo, H. (2020). Being white is a get-out-of-jail-free card: An analysis on racial disparities of drug convictions in the United States. SSRN Electronic Journal. https://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3575257

Williams, D. R., Lawrence, J. A., Davis, B. A., & Vu, C. (2019). Understanding how discrimination can affect health. Health Services Research, 54(S2). https://doi.org/10.1111/1475-6773.13222

Wolff, K. T., Baber, L. M., Dozier, C. A., & Cordeiro, R. (2019). Assessing the efficacy of alternatives to incarceration within seven federal districts. Justice Evaluation Journal. https://doi.org/10.1080/24751979.2019.1654354

Zane, S. N., Singer, S. I., & Welsh, B. C. (2020). The right to a good defense: Investigating the influence of attorney type across urban counties for juveniles in criminal court. Criminal Justice Policy Review, 32(2). 

https://doi.org/10.1177/0887403420903376

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