Should minorities receive special treatment for criminal offenses?
- In 2015, 56% of all incarcerated people in the US were Blacks and Hispanics, while these groups make up approximately 32% of the nation’s population.
- A recent Pew Research survey revealed that 87% of Black adults surveyed felt that Blacks are treated less fairly than Whites in the American criminal justice system.
- Some sociologists argue that inequalities in the criminal justice system arise due to a defendant’s poverty level and previous criminal record, not race.
- Research from the United States Sentencing Commission found that White male offenders received longer sentences than female offenders of all races.
As stated in the US Declaration of Independence, 'All men are created equal…' While, sadly, it's true our country hasn't always lived up to this motto, if we are ever to all see each other as equals, we must continue striving to exemplify it. Having different standards for different races cannot be our guiding principle, no matter the seeming goodwill behind the disparity. This is as true for consequences as it is for perks--and criminal offenses are no exception.
Minority citizens should have every expectation that if they are arrested and tried for a crime, they will receive precisely the same treatment as a member of any other race, White or otherwise. Melanin should have no bearing on the severity or leniency of sentencing. This only undermines autonomy and self-governance. As Thomas Sowell stated regarding reducing the percentage of 'convictions' of Black male students in the Minneapolis school district, 'Letting kids … grow up to become hoodlums, and then criminals is no favor to them or to the Black community.'
What absolutely should change is any tendency of police to protect the 'thin blue line,' whereby they shield racist, dirty, or just mean officers from consequences. Rather than perpetuating a system that protects wrongdoing on one side of the law while simultaneously throwing the book at minorities on the other, we must get serious about criminal justice reform. We must remove bad laws and unequal punishment for similar crimes, as well as find new ways to bring support and educational opportunities to high-crime areas. This will not only lower sentencing disparities, but also reduce crime in the first place.
The death of George Floyd has sparked significant controversy on the treatment of minorities in criminal offenses. Accused of the non-violent crime of forgery, Floyd paid for this offense with his life, deprived of air for over eight minutes by a policeman holding his knee against his neck. This gruesome example illustrates all too well the seeming reality that minorities are on the discriminatory-end of society-- especially for alleged criminal offenses yet to be proven.
While the constitution mentions equality for every American citizen, this notion is often not practiced in everyday life. America thrives on inequality. Further, the legal system and law enforcement agencies are rigged against minorities. For these reasons alone, there is justification in minorities being given special treatment for criminal offenses.
Not only are minorities arrested at a higher rate than Whites, but they are also less likely to be charged by the prosecution. If they do end up being charged, they are sentenced more harshly than White offenders accused of committing the same crime. The phrase 'guilty, until proven innocent' rather than 'innocent, until proven guilty' applies all too well in these scenarios.
According to the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, Black juveniles are incarcerated in adult courts and sent to prison more than White youth. Minorities are also at a greater risk of being at the receiving end of the 'drug-war' (62%) and are more likely to be arrested.
If White people receive lenient sentences for crimes when compared to minorities, then minorities should receive special treatment for criminal offenses.