Racism has been a part of American society since the revolution. It has affected every sphere of life of the people of color. People of color especially black have faced social and economic discrimination in the US. They are discriminated in the law enforcement institutes which are supposed to be fair to everyone. However, the black people have suffered stricter punishments compared to whites or other racial groups in the US. They have suffered at the hands of police outside of the prison and inside it. The police treat black people worse than any other groups. They are incarcerated at higher rates than other groups. But the racial minorities suffer at the hands of law enforcement. Therefore, racism in prison shows the disparity in the justice system of the United States which is political, culturally and socially embedded in the society even though it is unethical, and unjust to the people of color. Although some might argue it is because the black people commit crimes. The reality is the blacks get severe punishments for the same or similar crimes compared to whites.
The statistics show the people of color are incarcerated and punished severely at the hands of law enforcement. The rate of the African American incarcerations in the state prison is 5.1 times compared to the whites. In some states, it is 10 to 1 such as Iowa, New Jersey. In others, the rate of incarceration of black compared to white is 20 to 1. Oklahoma has the highest rates of black incarceration comprising 1 in 15 black adult males in prison. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports “35 percent of state prisoners are white” compared to 38 percent of black prisoners and Hispanics comprise 21 percent (Nellis). Moreover, statistics show that the rate of incarceration for “black men have risen faster” than any other groups since the 1980s (Waterman). According to Jess Mawhirt, the blacks people living in “more segregated states have a higher probability of being in jail” compared to the people living in “less segregated states” (Mawhirt). He concludes the segregation is correlated with the mass incarceration of the black people. However, the mass incarcerations of black men are rooted in American political, social and cultural institutions.
The mass incarceration of black in the US is the rooted in the political institution from the beginning. It can be traced back to the time of slavery. It was from then the black people have faced discrimination. In the beginning, due to the slavery, their rights are not protected. But with the 13th Amendment, the blacks were criminalized. The 13th amendment abolished slavery, but punishment for crimes was essential. Law and order were used to construct “black criminality” and harsh treatment of the black people (Waterman). But according to Loic Wacquant, the mass incarceration of American African is the outcome of “extra penological function” that the prison system due to the increased ghetto crimes (Wacquant). But many of the research suggests that racial discrimination is rooted in the political system and institutions. It is a way to suppress the black people. The imprisonment of the people of black people “operates as a tightly networked system of laws, policies, customs, and institutions to ensure the subordinate status” of the black (Alexander, 13). Therefore, arguing it is because of the crimes the rate of incarcerations of black people exists is invalid because whether it was the policy of “war on drugs” or tough on crimes, the focus was on the black people and they were discriminated largely under these policies (Alexander; Forman Jr).
Moreover, the police and law enforcement agencies such as police and justice department are involved in discriminating against the black people. The police violence on the black people on the road is recurring events in the US history. Police killed 282 black people in 2017 which comprises 25 percent of the total killings, but the black population was 13 percent. Additionally, in 2015, “30 percent of black victims were unarmed.” Shockingly the US police kill black people at “13 percent higher rates than the U.S murder rate” (“Police Killed 1,147 People in the U.S. in 2017.”).
The police department which is supposed to safeguard people are killing the black people as the discrimination and stereotypes about the black people are dominant in the American society (Haney). Similarly, the justice department is discriminating against the racial minorities while hearing and sentencing. The groups to get unfair sentences for the criminal offenses are Hispanic and Blacks. The blacks and Hispanic defendants “receive more severe sentences” compared to white defendants (Doerner and Demuth). For instance, in 13 states the rate of black serving life sentences is over 60 percent (Turner and Dakwar). Thus, the protectors and security providers are involved in the discrimination most of the time. They contribute essentially to maintaining the cultural and social norms by perpetrating injustice on a specified racial group and sparing others for their crimes.
This treatment of black and minorities is unjust and unethical, and it perpetuates and retains the system that is unjust for certain group of people. It takes opportunities from the black people and minorities pushing them back to a cycle of constant suffering. Incarcerating people limits adults from “marriage and steady jobs.” The same research shows ex-prisoners “earn lower wages and are less likely to be married and live with the mothers of their children” (Mawhirt, 167). Thus, develops a cycle of economic and academic backwardness of the racial group. The generations of people are affected because of the discrimination and unjust treatment. The stereotyping against one group of the population leads to social and political segregation. The discriminatory laws and police treatment contribute to social inequality and human rights violations. Furthermore, the Legal system “serves to marginalize the victims” (Gottschalk, 102) which is unethical because their responsibility is to safeguard the rights of the people. Additionally, it takes away the family and relationships from the person’s life, and it becomes unethical when the perpetrator is unfairly got punished or incarcerated. Consequently, it is unfair and unethical to force a person to live a life that takes away socio-economic opportunities from a person’s life.
Moreover, the inhuman treatment of the incarcerated people poses a security threat, psychological and physical, to the incarcerated and their families. The “prison environment adversely effects on the health” due to the food, smoking and overall environment (National Academy of Sciences). The living conditions in the incarcerations contribute to the well-being of the people. This lack of proper facilities in the jails leads to many physical and psychological diseases. Additionally, due to the isolation and overcrowdedness in prison, the inmates have “high rates of chronic an infectious disease.” Furthermore, the isolation and strict enforcement, the level of “depression and psychiatric disorders are high” (Brinkley-Rubinstein). The health and well-being of the inmates are at risk due to long term imprisonment. Lack of acceptance and social life when in the jail and after coming out of imprisoning, puts these people at risk of being psychologically and physically ill. The correctional facilities of the countries contribute to the deteriorating of health conditions for the inmates.
As the population of the black population is high in the jail, they are more to suffer from the psychiatric and health problems. They are more likely to enter the vicious cycle of economic and financial problems. Hence, the incarceration has negative impacts on the black people and their well-being (Silton). It also affects the family members and children whose parents are in the jail. The inmates consider it difficult to build their relationship after coming out of the jail. As they have stayed away from each other for longer time, it is difficult for the parents as well as children to relate to each other’s experiences. Moreover, negative connotations is attached to the crime and criminals which makes it harder for the children to connect to their parents who are in jails because of peer pressure or the distance. There is lack of acceptance in the society that contributes to marginalization of the people who return from jails. They suffer the harsh treatment from the society and are forced to accept the life that is not enriching. They are treated as if they are untouchables and people fear to build relationship with them due to their history. The incarceration limits the choices of people making them less desirable in the society.
To conclude, some people might believe that people who commit a crime must be punished, but in the US, it is complicated. The incarcerations create more problems for the people instead of helping them to be better people. They create problems for the inmates, psychological and physical, making them vulnerable to diseases as the prison are overly crowded. The infections are normal for them. Moreover, lack of proper meal also contributes to the well-being of the person. Also, the isolation from family and friends and lack of social life contribute to psychological disorders. Furthermore, it creates social problems. It contributes to the escalation of social inequality by strengthening already prevalent racial stereotypes.
Alexander, Michelle. “The New Jim Crow.” Ohio St. J. Crim. L., vol. 9, 2011, p. 13.
Brinkley-Rubinstein, Lauren. “Incarceration as a Catalyst for Worsening Health.” Health & Justice, vol. 1, no. 1, 2013, p. 3.
Doerner, Jill K., and Stephen Demuth. “The Independent and Joint Effects of Race/Ethnicity, Gender, and Age on Sentencing Outcomes in US Federal Courts.” Justice Quarterly, vol. 27, no. 1, 2010, pp. 1–27.
Forman Jr, James. “Racial Critiques of Mass Incarceration: Beyond the New Jim Crow.” NYUL Rev., vol. 87, 2012, p. 21.
Gottschalk, Marie. The Prison and the Gallows: The Politics of Mass Incarceration in America. Cambridge University Press, 2006.
Haney, Craig. “The Psychological Impact of Incarceration: Implications for Post-Prison Adjustment.” Prisoners Once Removed: The Impact of Incarceration and Reentry on Children, Families, and Communities, vol. 33, 2003, p. 66.
Mawhirt, Jess. “Segregation and Incarceration: How Life in the Ghetto Leads to Life in Prisons for Young Black Men.” Colgate Academic Review, vol. 7, no. 1, 2012, p. 9.
National Academy of Sciences. Impact of Incarceration on Health. National Academies Press (US), 8 Aug. 2013. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK201966/.
Nellis, Ashley. “The Color of Justice: Racial and Ethnic Disparity in State Prisons.” The Sentencing Project, 14 June 2016, https://www.sentencingproject.org/publications/color-of-justice-racial-and-ethnic-disparity-in-state-prisons/.
“Police Killed 1,147 People in the U.S. in 2017.” Mapping Police Violence, https://mappingpoliceviolence.org/.
Silton, D. J. “US Prisons and Racial Profiling: A Covertly Racist Nation Rides a Vicious Cycle.” Law & Ineq., vol. 20, 2002, p. 53.
Turner, Jennifer, and Jamil Dakwar. Racial Disparities in Sentencing. American Civil Liberties Union, 21 Oct. 2014, https://www.aclu.org/sites/default/files/assets/141027_iachr_racial_disparities_aclu_submission_0.pdf.
Wacquant, Loïc. “From Slavery to Mass Incarceration.” New Left Review, vol. 13, 2002.
Waterman, Morgan. Race, Segregation, and Incarceration in the States, 1920-2010 | History 90.01: Topics in Digital History. http://sites.dartmouth.edu/censushistory/2016/10/31/rough-draft-race-segregation-and-incarceration-in-the-states-1920-2010/.