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The Justice and Juvenile System were introduced in the American Justice system with the specific objective of offering a better approach to solving all criminal acts about the youth. This was deemed necessary after the researches showed that young people have a good shot at reformation through rehabilitation, as opposed to their adult counterparts. The framers of the juvenile justice system had all the good intentions of pre-emptying the likelihood of youthful lawbreakers evolving into fully-fledged criminals as a result of coming into contact with the adult criminals, who take crime as a career.
Unfortunately, the aspirations of the sponsors of this judicial reform have been thwarted by the emerging trends in the American justice system that have seen the introduction of maligning policies that have blurred the line between juvenile and adult crimes. Widespread disparities in the application of punitive measures are the norm of the day. Authorities have openly shown discord in fair prosecution of young criminals by allowing racism to be a preferred yardstick in determining, who should be prosecuted and what severity to apply to the youth based on the color of their skin.
Statistics show that the ratio of black Americans that are held in correctional facilities is more than that of their white counterparts. It is quite a shame that such a state of affairs has been condoned by the authorities even though white youth have been seen to commit the same crimes, as their black counterparts, if not more. This paper seeks to show the extent of racial disparity in the juvenile system, as well as the ways of limiting and, hopefully, eliminating such a segregated and impartial application of the law based on the color of one's skin.
The broad objective of this research paper is to show the level of decay in the juvenile justice system, which will go a long way in meeting the specific objective of permanently eliminating such a notion that because I am not you, I will be subjected to a more severe judicial process. In so doing, the researcher believes that America can finally embark on a structured and conclusive strategy to combat social problems such as this.
Because I Am Not You
Racial disparity in the justice and the juvenile system is a social problem that has persisted in the American justice system. It has become a legacy to every government, both at the State and National levels. Each government has to balance the need to maintain law and order in the country without stepping on the rights of offenders, as well as the general constitution provisions that guide all the judicial processes. Was America a single race country, the problem of racial disparities would be just but a tale?
Unfortunately, America is a multicultural country with a large number of Black, Hispanic, and Asian people living alongside the dominant white race. The notion that Black people are naturally violent has earned them the violent tag. Unfortunately, this comes with a catch, the racial tag too. The long negative history of violence among the blacks has also worsened the already volatile relationship between the white and the black races.
This has long exploded into the outright friction between these two dominant races, the consequence of which was the white's deliberate acts of applying different punitive measures on all black people, who took part in criminal activities. This continued for many years before the blacks started taking up a career in crime and channeling their rage on the whites in retaliation. The consequences of this were dire on both sides, but the biggest losers were the minority races.
Additionally, crime rates rose among both blacks and whites. The whites started taking advantage of the fact that the system was lenient on them to commit even more crimes. This worsened the status quo, where the blacks took crime as a way of getting back at the whites for discriminating against them. As bad as this sounds, the worst was yet to come for America.
Its young population was got in between this battle of supremacy between the blacks and the whites, and the things were to never remain the same. Whereas the whites mainly stick to the use of drugs due to peer pressure, the black youth was not so lucky. They found themselves taking up crime as a career. The odds were on them, as the system purposed to keep them on a short leash. The hardest hit was the black youth, who had to balance between going to school to ascertain their future and joining crime as a result of negative pressure.
The adult black criminals heavily influenced youngsters to join gangs. This came with a hoard of other immoral practices, such as drug use, illegal arms, illiteracy, and hardcore crimes, e.g. violent robberies, rapes, and murders. The situation was fast disintegrating into a social problem, the one that the government could not afford to bury its head in the sand with anymore. This has led to radical policy changes directed to reforming the judicial system, to halt any further churning of the young criminals, who were to be career criminals in the future. The result of this was the introduction of the juvenile justice system.
The main aim of this was to limit the contact between the adult hardcore criminals and young offenders, to avoid graduation of these youth into hardcore criminals. This was to ensure the beheading of criminal outfits by cutting the link between the young criminals and their old counterparts. However, this noble idea yielded a monster in the name of disparities in the juvenile system. The process has become its own enemy by allowing parallel sets of laws to address the same criminal offenses based on racism.
Manifestation of disparities in the juvenile justice process stems from the unfair detention of black youths, while their white counterparts with the same crimes get off with a slap on the wrist. For example, in Maryland, black youths were reported to have been the victims of unfair arrests in the war against drugs. Approximately 86-100 black youths were arrested in the 80s, while a paltry 18-20 white youth were arrested for the same crime. The rate of arrests for the blacks grew exponentially to dwarf that of whites over the years. To be precise, the ratio of black to white arrests was 100: 1 in 1990, as compared to 5:1 in the 1980s (Males & Macallair, 2000).
As if this was not enough, the number of times the whites were arrested for drug sale dropped by 13, while that of the Blacks rose to 1304 in 1990, as compared to 1980. This represents a staggering 1400% in Baltimore, Maryland alone! Nationally, statistics were not any different. The phenomenon was that for every drop in the number of white youths arrested, there was a more than proportionate increase in the number of blacks arrested.
For instance, between 1980 and 1990, the number of white arrests about drug use and sale dropped by 34%, while that of blacks rose by 78%. This was not because of a reduction in the level of drug use among the whites or an increase on the part of blacks. In fact, the level of drug use was deemed higher among the whites than the blacks. The essence of this is that the system was ill-bent on purging up the prosecution of black youths. This has to lead to over-representation of the minority races, which is against the very rationale of setting up the Juvenile judicial system.
This level of disparity is not confined to drug-related crimes alone. According to the National Youth Survey on violent crimes, the rate of crimes committed by whites and blacks was 3:2 respectively. Unfortunately, the rates of arrests were a far cry in the records of the authorities. More blacks were arrested than the whites with the rate standing at 4:1 respectively. This begs the question of why the arrest figures do not match the rate of crimes committed. It does not take a rocket scientist to ascertain that racial disparity has long overflowed from the adult judicial process to even the juveniles in the society, a phenomenon that has continued to date.
This gives credence to the claim by the blacks that because I am not you, the system will work against me. This disparity in the juvenile justice system serves to create a feeling of self-fulfillment among the black youths. Such youths will forever stand up against the system for unfairly judging them while setting the whites free. Consequently, this mindset among young people creates a fertile ground for the rise of career criminals in the future. The implication of this is the reversal of all the good that a judicial process and juvenile correctional facilities were meant to nurture.
As such, society will always be in the midst of social problems that can be easily averted was the juvenile justice system to apply a single standard in judging all criminals irrespective of their skin color (McCord, Widom, Crowell, 2001).
Whereas it is acceptable to put all the blame on the government for presiding over a flawed justice system plagued with racial disparities, it does not help society to take a back seat on such a matter. The public must realize its input to the eventful journey that led to the murky state that we find ourselves in today. We must understand that our action of sitting back, as the government made discriminative policies yesterday, has come to haunt us today.
For instance, Californian voters hastily passed Proposition 21, the Gang Violence and Youth Crime Prevention Act in 2000. Among other possible implications, the provisions of this Act allow the authorities to arrest and judge juvenile criminals without consulting the juvenile court. From a glance, the Act promised to deliver justice. Instead, it has miscarried to create a monster, as the authorities manipulated it, resulting in the racist application of the law (Howell et al., 1997).
This is just one of the many occasions, where the public acted as a rubber stamp to the racially insensitive laws. Other ways, in which the public has aggravated disparities in the juvenile judicial system, include encouraging racisms on the street, in public places, churches, and workplaces. The cases, where the whites have made racist comments, such as black monkeys or the dark race, have sowed the seeds of discord in the society. Such actions have led to retaliatory actions; for example, the blacks attacking any white person, who walked into their neighborhoods, and generally channeling their racist motivated anger to the whites (Fisher, 2010).
The biggest failure of the society in addressing disparities in the Juvenile Judicial system is the act of seeing the white youth as having a problem, while the black one as being a problem. According to Sgt. Andre Parker, a co-facilitator for the Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance, such notions dispose of the two races to develop contempt for each other. Parker gives this as one of the causes of heightened discrimination, which goes up the ladder of justice to influence juvenile court decisions basing on skin color (Avalone, 2013).
Continued instances of disparities in the justice and juvenile systems have always been a topic in many types of research. One research in particular shades light on the reason for this. The research was done by the Sentencing Group - a non-profit organization that concerns itself with the sentencing reforms and use of incarceration alternatives, such as probation and rehabilitation programs. Its research findings were that the current public and formal policies that govern juvenile justice were weak and contained many loopholes that allowed disparities, manipulation, and abuses to thrive.
For instance, the public policy on random stops and searches does not provide clear guidelines on the way it should be carried out without making any race feel unfairly targeted. Consequently, the authorities have on many occasions targeted the blacks. According to the research, the police stopped 18 black people on random checks and searches for every 1 white boy stopped. This seems to echo Sgt. Parkers take on the popular formal response adopted by the authorities that black is deemed a problem instead of them being faced with a problem like their white counterparts (The Sentencing Project, 2008).
From these findings, it is safe to conclude that the current public and formal responses to the race issue are not only inconclusive in discouraging racial discrimination; they are also a cause for its continued segregation based on skin color. As long as the government's policy on security, such as random stops and searches, is not controlled, the judicial system will find a way of propagating disparity. After all, the prosecution always works together with the police. This means that they can easily tilt a case involving a black youth to its favor by planting evidence on them.
Furthermore, the society that agrees with branding the black child a problem, is pre-disposed to overlook all forms of disparities that such a minority group will face. Legislation, such as California Resolution 21, is susceptible to abuse and manipulation by the racist officers in the system to unfairly lock up the youths suspected to be gang members without consulting the relevant agencies, such as the Juvenile courts. The alternatives to the current public and formal approaches would be as following:
Streamlining law enforcement to ensure that it is not deemed as an agent of oppression by any of the races, more so by the Blacks. For this to be a success, all police officers carrying out random checks or traffic control should educate all people to stop on their rights and state why they want to check them. This should be done in the most polite and friendly manner to avert any suspicions of mischief. This should be done to all people irrespective of their race;
Engaging the local people in the prevention of local challenges, such as drug selling and use with no pre-determined agenda of victimizing anyone. This will make the people part of a solution-finding process, which is a good gesture. It also provides a shift from the idea of looking at black people as a problem;
Initiate training programs of personnel that introduce them to the cultural diversities that make up America. This will equip the personnel on the appropriate handling of all races since they will know their characteristics beforehand. The result of this is a competitive force that will not only arrest errant youths but also counsel them. This approach gives a personal touch to policing, which leads to better handling of the minority races;
Developing and constantly updating a mechanism that ensures that complaints from the public are received and acted upon. All officers with numerous complaints on them should be investigated and the proper course of action should be rolled out;
Ensure that all judicial and law enforcement management is alive to the unique needs of all races. This allows for the application of the appropriate policies, which are designed to counter the race activities, as well as to provide the best possible ways of designing correctional programs to all the youths without overly representing them;
All state agencies, as well as the political classes, are to be encouraged to carry out systematic mass education to ensure that they desist from making racist comments that might degenerate social problems in the society, such as the gang activities;
Develop sound community policing approaches that are anchored on collective responsibility for security in their society. This will go a long way in cutting juvenile crimes in high crime zones since the local leaders take it upon themselves to forestall any future criminal activity among them.
The negative repercussion of these alternatives is that they enlighten the criminals on the workings of law enforcers. This can be counterproductive if they use such knowledge for criminal intentions.
In conclusion, racial disparity in the justice and the juvenile system is a vice that was created and propagated by the society that is at war with itself. This is because the racial disparity is our own creation. There is no way we can afford to make inflammatory comments about our neighbors due to the color of their skin, and expect them not to retaliate. It is not a vice that can be changed merely by legislation. It requires our commitment to realize that we are all equal and that our racial orientations should make, not break us. The sooner we accept this, the faster such social evils like racial disparity in the justice and the juvenile system can be eradicated once and for all.