Sociology and Criminal Justice

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Category: Societal Issues

Date Submitted: 09/18/2012 07:04 AM

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Sherrita Hedgepeth

This day in age we would love to say that every person is treated the same in our criminal justice system; however, we cannot say that. Over the years many sociologists have done studies and collected data that shows a great deal of difference when it comes to the treatment of criminal acts and the race of the individual arrested for the crime. Three key factors covered in the text in regards to institutional racism within the legal system were the fact that the justice system can easily detect “crimes committed by some kinds of people” but not the crimes committed by other individuals. A second factor is the decision made by the DA office as to whether or not to prosecute or refer a case to the court system. Finally there has been shown to be a majority/minority inequality in sentencing.

A variety of factors contribute to differences in victimization, criminal activity, and involvement in the criminal justice system, including neighborhoods, economic status, and education. The first factor that affects high crime statistics for blacks may be differential law enforcement by police. Sometimes police arrest blacks for offenses that would be handled informally if the same offenses were committed by whites. For example, police often harass black streetwalkers but allow white prostitutes to conduct their criminal activities virtually ignored. Also with the increased presence of police officers in low income areas, those who make up that population are often picked up for several offences. Those who have poorer earnings prospects in the legal job market may be more likely to engage in criminal activity. In addition, since blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians are over represented at the bottom of the earnings distribution, those groups have been increasingly affected by deteriorating earnings. Crime policy and enforcement decisions also influence differences in victimization, criminal activity, and punishments. Some policies can have different...