Role played by race/ethnicity in the criminal justice system
Historically, race played a big role in the criminal justice system, especially in relation to punishment for perceived or actual criminal conduct. In the early twentieth century, the extent of punishment meted out depended on one’s race. Virtually all cases that involved minorities resulted to strict and harsh sanctions, especially cases involving African – Americans (Rosich, 2007). These sanctions served two purposes: to deter criminal conduct among the minorities, and to suppress any uprisings.
This was compounded by the fact that those in charge of the criminal justice were from the majority. All juries, judges, legislators, and law enforcement officers were white. Inevitably this meant that once a person from a minority had a running with the criminal justice system, the outcome was bleak, irrespective of whether they were innocent. Over time this practice became deeply entrenched not only in the system, but also among the citizens, some of whom would eventually join the system. Even though the situation has changed as of today, there still traces of the practice (Barak et.al, 2010).
Impact of U.S. v Booker and U.S. v Fanfan.
These decisions basically ruled that sentencing guidelines are advisory, and thus a Court need only be guided by them (Barak et.al, 2010). The impact of this decision is twofold: one, it may re-introduce discrimination in sentencing, and two, it may improving sentencing to ensure that an accused gets what they deserve. Re-introduction of discriminatory sentencing may arise because the decisions effectively made sentencing discretionary. Discretion is premised on many factors some of which are personal such as feelings, personal views among others. It is obvious that some of these factors may be discriminatory or result to discriminatory sentences. On the other hand, sentencing being discretional allows a judge to consider other circumstances such as family situation, mental status; all which may have contributed to the crime. The flexibility allows a judge to harsh or lenient depending on the circumstances. This not only ensures an accused gets what they deserve but also improves the quality of justice.
Prejudice and discrimination
The difference between these two is action. Prejudices consist of negative or unfounded attitudes towards someone or a group. Discrimination on the other hand consists of acts or behavior of treating people differently based on class, race, and gender among others. In such regard, a prejudiced person may not be discriminatory in as long as their attitudes do not influence how they treat people. Therefore, when a prejudiced person acts on their attitudes, they then become discriminatory. It is however difficult to be discriminatory and not be prejudiced. This is because a person being discriminatory arises out the person’s feelings or attitudes towards the person they are discriminating; these feelings and attitudes are invariably prejudices.
There are many causes of prejudices, but they can be classified into four categories. These categories explain the root of prejudices. The first is authoritarian personality; this is when a person feels and believes they are superior to others. Such people are strict, harsh, and rigid, and their children invariably become prejudiced. The second is stereotypes; these are simple generalized beliefs about something or someone. Once someone subscribes to a stereotype, they invariably treat all the people within its scope as the same. The third is peer and social influence; every group or class has norms which they subscribe to, and they tend to characterize those that do not subscribe to such norms negatively. The fourth is exploitation; this arises where a person wants to use another to gain economically at their expense.
Barak, G., Leighton, P. and Flavin, J. (2010). Class, Race, Gender, and Crime: The Social
Realities of Justice in America. Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, inc. Print.
Rosich, K. J. (2007). Race, Ethnicity, and the Criminal Justice System. American Sociological
Association, September, 2007. Print.