According to the report released by the United States of America (USA) Justice Department in 2003, approximately 10.4 percent of all African American men in all the states were incarcerated, imprisoned or jailed between the ages of 25 to 29 as compared to 2.4 percent of Hispanic men and 1.2 percent of Non-Hispanic white men incarcerated. This data is also closely related to the incarceration rates in the year 2001 whereby 46 percent of all the inmates sent to prison were African American while 36 percent Non-Hispanic white men and 16 percent were Hispanic men. In this and other reports and researches conducted by various criminology research departments and institutions in America, African American men always have been on the forefront of imprisonment and incarcerations (Mauer & King, 2007). They actually have been and are always vulnerable to incarceration as compared to their counterparts in the Hispanic and Non-Hispanic origin. The problem that has always been the subject of contention and debate since the initiation of criminology in the 19th century is whether race actually affects the rate of committing crime or their are other underlying factors that actually contribute to the rate at which various ethnic groups commit crime.
This paper actually explores the various factors that contribute to the high incarceration and imprisonment rates of the African American population especially men as compared to the Hispanic and Non-Hispanic white population aged between 25 and 29 years. In regard to this, the paper explores: Some incidences of criminal prosecutions and trials that the three races have been subjected to, prison sentences that both the races have been subjected to and some other factors that have been influencing the prevalent incidence of imprisonment in the black community for example, the number of lawmakers in all the three ethnic communities and the role ethnicity actually plays in judging of cases. Finally, the paper looks at how financial or economic factors and other social factors affect the rate at which both the three communities commit crime.
To begin with, it can be contended that most of the prison population is dominated by African American men as compared to the Hispanic and non-Hispanic white counterparts. Several factors can be debated as being the cause of these disparities, dissimilarities and inequality. First of all, Mauer and King (2007) debate that laws enacted by lawmakers regarding drug trafficking and other related offences are more biased. They argue that drug policies are harsher towards the black American population as compared to the Hispanic and Non-Hispanic populations. In addition, black folks are always subjected to more severe and long sentences as compared to their counterparts in cases of similar crimes committed. Mauer and King in their research debate that the increase in the number of prisoners is actually due to the strict drug laws which affects the whole ethnic population irrespective of race; in 1989 after the passage of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act, the number of prisoners actually rose to 52 percent of the total population of prisoners. In their research they also found out that, between 1986 and 1997 the number of African Americans convicted for drug abuse rose from 5.7 percent to 9 percent while the percentage of the whites only rose from 1.4 percent to 2.0 percent. Additionally, they debate that the possibility of incarceration of a black male born in 1991 due to drugs was 29 percent while 16 percent for Hispanics and 4 percent for Non-Hispanic whites. African Americans are highly incarcerated because of the bias in the judicial laws towards African Americans; they are sentenced to more days in prison than their compatriots in the Hispanic and Non-Hispanic white ethnic community. Moreover, the conviction penalty for a cheaper form of cocaine referred to as crack is higher than powder cocaine. Crack cocaine is inexpensive and readily accessible and available to the black folks as compared to the powder cocaine which is very expensive and only available to the white community which is arguably more economically and financially stable. The contrast is that the African Americans actually get sentenced more years in prison for trafficking crack as compared to their Hispanic and Non-Hispanic white colleagues who receive lighter punishments for selling powder cocaine. Therefore, the biased criminal justice system contributes greatly to the disparities in incarceration rates between the African American men and Hispanic and Non-Hispanic white their compatriots.
Another reason why African American men are vulnerable to high rates of incarcerations is due to the social, economic and cultural status of the black folks as compared to their Hispanic and Non-Hispanic white colleagues. Western and Petit (2005) argue that the rates of incarcerations in African Americans are actually higher compared to the whites and Hispanics because of their low economic status. This is caused by the high rates of joblessness in the African American population. They estimate that an increase of 7 to 20 percent in the black white wage gap in 1999 contributed more to the rates of incarceration in the African American population as compared to their partners in the Hispanic and white community. The joblessness and unemployment may be due to the fact that most of these African American men are proportionately semi-skilled or unskilled hence cannot get access to good and well paying jobs and as a result there exists a wide wage gap between them and the whites. This actually forces the African Americans to get involved in crime or indulge themselves in drug trafficking which attributes to the elevated incarceration rates as compared to the Hispanics and the Non-Hispanic white males. Western and Petit in their research found that 6 percent of the whites without jobs were in prison or jail in 1999 while greater than 20 percent of the African Americans without jobs were in jail or prison. Unemployment may also be caused by the low levels of education among the African Americans as compared to Hispanics and Non-Hispanic whites who access good and quality education in well equipped institutions with a variety of resources.
Finally, one of the reasons that can be debated as causing disparity, inequality, discrepancy and disproportion in the rates of African American males incarcerated in comparison with Hispanic and Non-Hispanic white men is the inequality in the distribution of law makers, judges and lawmakers in the criminal judicial system. Chew and Kelly (2009) debate that the rates of discrimination in the judicial courts may actually be one of the reasons why African Americans are more incarcerated as compared to their Hispanic and Non-Hispanic white counterparts. In the federal, regional or national courts, there is approximately a total of 805 judges who oversee the prosecution of cases out of which 11 percent of these judges are African American, 7 percent are Hispanic, less than 1 percent are Asian American and 81 percent Non-Hispanic whites. However, a combination of judges in both the state and federal courts produces a more discriminatory ratios; from a total of 12,000 judges, white judges constitute a total of 83.9, African American constitute 6.2 percent, Hispanic comprises of about 3.1 percent while the remaining percentage is made up of the Asian American and other communities. These figures illustrate the high rates of racial discrimination that exist in the criminal judicial system which may actually bring inequality in terms of decision making (Mauer, 1999). In addition, minorities in the total American population represents about 30 percent and their representation in the judiciary is less than 3.6 percent. In a sample population of 2000 lawyers, 4 percent were African American, 3.3 percent were for a Hispanic ethnic group, 2.3 percent were Asian and the rest were Non-Hispanic white lawyers. Both of these comparisons actually try to demonstrate and illustrate the inequality and discrepancy in terms of appointments in the Criminal Judicial System which eventually impacts the rates of incarcerations in relation to the ethnic background of convicts. Also the research results indicate that, most black men are actually judged harshly by judges who argue that these black folks are actually capable of committing much more serious crimes than their Hispanic and Non-Hispanic Counterparts. Therefore, most judges irrespective of ethnic background always prefer to give law breakers of the Africana American society of background more or severe penalties in relation to their counterparts (Mauer & King, 2007).
In conclusion, it can be summarized that approximately 10.4 percent of all African American men were incarcerated, imprisoned or jailed between the ages of 25 to 29 as compared to 2.4 percent of Hispanic men and 1.2 percent of Non-Hispanic white men in 2003. In regard to this, it is therefore notable that various factors actually contribute to the high rates of incarcerations observed among the African American men as compared to Hispanic and Non-Hispanic white men. One of the most important factors is the bias and inequality that exists in the appointment of the judicial service commission especially the appointment of judges; white judges always tend to favor their fellow whites and vice versa. These appointments affect the representation of the minority in the judicial system. Secondly, the wide wage gap between the African American, Hispanic and Non-Hispanic whites can be another attribute as to why the rates of incarcerations are so high in the African American men. This additionally can be contended as being brought about by the fact that most African American men are unemployed and jobless due to lack of skills hence they engage themselves highly in crime rates. Moreover, Anti Drug Abuse Laws and policies contribute majorly to the high rates of incarceration experienced in the black community as compared to the Hispanic and Non-Hispanic white community. In addition, the biased and harsh drug laws seem to punish severely the trafficking of crack, a cheaper form of cocaine readily available in the black community as compared to the trafficking of powder cocaine which is more expensive and only trafficked by the whites (Mauer & King, 2007). Finally, I would like to make the following recommendations regarding the reduction of rates of incarceration in African American men: First, I would recommend that the law makers revise the Drug Policies Act so that policies and laws are more centered towards prevention, treatment and rehabilitation of those addicted to drug abuse rather than tightening these laws and incarcerating drug users and traffickers. In addition, laws on crack cocaine and powder cocaine should actually be similar to enhance equality and reduce racial discrimination; sentences imposed on African Americans should actually be similar to those imposed on Hispanics and Non-Hispanic whites. Finally, I would like to suggest that the federal government should distribute resources equally including creating more employment opportunities for the African American men. This will reduce poverty levels among the African Americans hence the rates of crime and drug trafficking will be lowered consequently reducing the rate of incarceration of African Americans.
Chew, P. K., & Kelley, R. E. (2009). Myth of the Color-Blind Judge: An Empirical Analysis of Racial Harassment Cases. Washington University Law Review, 86: 1116-1166. Retrieved on 31 January, 2011. From http://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:_8lAyIn9xWEJ:lawreview.wustl.edu/inprint/86/5/kelley.pdf+pdf-The+number+of+white+Judges+as+compared+to+black+judges+in+USA&hl=en&gl=ke&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESgpwO-9fORHzDz8JTt_e5JjjiJp6D_92i5v2CVPLz8XuRYxdYRdOUFQgMzzJhNp357nI3RjqinmrR6aGcGWYvGHhHS5Hjcxp_JRfyzNkTiAluF1DDhXl0l5mRKxFRkoktelCEkx&sig=AHIEtbT87EccQA0hmiXJ7JmV5s0cZk7GEA
Mauer, M., & King, R. S. (2007). Uneven Justice: States Rates of Incarceration by Race and Ethnicity. The Sentencing Project, 1-19.
Mauer, M. (1999). The Crisis of the Young American Male and the Criminal Justice System. US Commission of Civil Rights, 1-18. Retrieved on 31 January, 2011. From http://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:Xq7JQ-fk7eIJ:www.sentencingproject.org/doc/publications/rd_crisisoftheyoung.pdf+pdf-Reasons+why+there+are+many+black+americans+are+incarcerated+as+compared+to+whites&hl=en&gl=ke&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESjwu-JEPP_wpgh1wiwbi7kxRbJBmyhoY9On0p_TpQj8qgNI2CFN1nyGXNpDEbGHxP0-8eREGp5cwalvLeXIMNBckyuFhIoNKcIP1TAvYK9PWtVEczlQubk3vNXGy_J3-_O_mrUv&sig=AHIEtbREqkgWDgv9NtZzS41XyR4fyaS7vg&pli=1
Western, B., & Pettit, B. (2005). Black-White Wage Inequality, Employment Rates and Incarceration. ASJ, 111 (2): 553-578. Retrieved on 31 January, 2011. From http://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:hUnss3F_aRkJ:www.wjh.harvard.edu/soc/faculty/western/pdfs/western_ajs.pdf+pdf-Reasons+why+there+are+many+black+americans+are+incarcerated+as+compared+to+whites&hl=en&gl=ke&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESgImN6N6A1liM-LhZUHRx0pU3s3PPmaE38-XhpfVcHavCTxu7dyQS_5iqJkhRpgBWZYMkshi5k-NN_OULQerkCh_AB7yfD7p7KKSfN4RYfH32neDQ3CpSBAc1YPkyF0GxaVJKjm&sig=AHIEtbQHjSMOL3AiCTc-5lKMsq4iFXhJFA