Different studies concerning the criminal justice system in the United States shows evidence of discrimination based on ethnicity, social class and race. The practice was more common in the past but current provisions in the constitution prohibit it. Current law enforcement policies and regulations assign great emphasis on accountability and professionalism when handling crime. However, violence and tensions among the police and certain minority communities still exist. Although the incidences of discrimination against different minority groups has reduced, the United States criminal justice system still grapples with the skewed perceptions of justice in the system. Racial, social class and ethnic discrepancies still exist in the country’s criminal justice system (“American Sociological Association,” 2007).
Various methods used in conducting studies to investigate the extent of discrimination in the criminal justice system are debatable (“American Sociological Association,” 2007). Different studies have been carried out in different timeframes, environments, and design which results in biased findings. However, most studies conclude that social class, ethnic and racial parities are still common in the American justice system. Racial, social class and ethnic discrimination does occur at certain stages of the system. Various police officers involved in different studies said that their racial bias usually led them to use excessive force when apprehending criminals from certain minority groups. Various witnesses state that they saw police officers hurling abuses at suspected criminals from certain ethnic and racial backgrounds (Spohn et al., 2012).
Racial bias has also been reflected among the members of the public where they directed racial slurs and comments towards police officers who were members of selected groups. Other reports discovered that the courts had two distinct justice systems, “one for white and a very different one for minorities and the poor.” (Banks, 2013, 45). Members of the minority groups had smaller courts sessions convicted by a biased jury. Racial discrimination originated from the adoption of past procedures and regulations that had not been assessed before enactment and implementation. Racial, social class and ethnic discrimination is also evident in the processing of juvenile cases. This occurred both directly and indirectly. Certain decision-making points, arrest, jury selection, bail, sentencing and conviction comprise the most instances of discrimination (Spohn et al., 2012).
Racial discriminations may sometimes be the reasons behind arrests. Negative encounters between the police and perceived minority groups are a major cause of arrest. A police officer may initiate arrest because he or she was disrespected. Various studies show that in certain states, black people were more likely to be shot by the police compared to their white counterparts. Social status and race may be a determining factor in bail application if the offender is able to raise the amount needed to bail him or her out (Reiman & Leighton, 2013). In jury selection, many states have established policies and regulations that prohibit the use of an all white jury. An all white jury is not representative of the entire population and is therefore susceptible to racial bias (Reiman & Leighton, 1998).
The menace of racial discrimination is undoubtedly here to stay since it springs from ingrained values in the members of the society, which are difficult to change. The most severe effects of discrimination in the criminal justice system are experienced by its victims. They are treated harshly, arrested and incarcerated and have to shoulder the burden of discrimination. More research needs to be done to understand the concept of discrimination in the criminal justice system and proper measures put in place to ensure the well-being of the minority groups is maintained.