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Mass Incarceration of Minorities: social justice system

Mass incarceration of minorities in the United States has increased tremendously over the last few decades stretching of the the social justice system beyond limits. According to Pettit and Western, there was a six-fold increase in the jail population in the United States between 1972 and 2000 (p.151). In the beginning of the 21st century, there were about 1.3 million men locked up in jail (Pettit and Western p.151). The numbers have kept on increasing, with James Oleson indicating that at year-end 2014, there were more than 2.2 million people locked up in U.S prisons and jails (p.1).

Factors of race, gender, and class in social justice system

The social justice system appears to have a challenge when the Mass incarceration of minorities numbers are analyzed considering such factors as race, gender, and class. People of the upper class are rarely incarcerated while those from lower classes easily get in jails and prisons. Wealth is linked to incarceration rates in such a way that the rich populations are less likely to be jailed when compared to the poor. Additionally, males are more likely to be jailed when compared to females.

Racial minorities, for instance, are overrepresented in offences committed, delinquency, victimization, as well as all the stages and processes of the criminal justice system (Pettit and Western p.2-3). The incarceration reforms instituted in early 1970s led to an increase in the number of incarcerated individuals. These reforms, however, have brought bias in the criminal justice system where certain groups of people undergo incarceration more than others.

The numbers of confined populations

The numbers of confined populations are majorly constituted by minorities, with the Black population leading in numbers. According to Oleson, minority males are more likely to be mass incarcerated when compared to majority populations (p.1). For instance, Hispanic males are twice more likely to be incarcerated when compared to white non-Hispanic males. Also, Black males are six times more likely to be incarcerated when compared to non-Hispanic white males (Olsen p.1-2).

According to Dirks, Heldman, and Zack, sexuality also comes into play through penal spectatorship, with white women being the subject of a biased criminal justice system (p.161-62). According to these authors, beautiful white women offenders are viewed as victims of circumstances.  As such, many tend to elude incarceration through white and sexual protectionism.

The rise of the social justice challenge

The rise of the social justice challenge of biased mass incarceration of minorities is attributed to many factors. The prison boom can be traced back to the 1970s when the U.S declared war on drugs. Race and economic conditions have been associated with drug-related offences. According to Pettit and Western, people from poor backgrounds tend to be limited in skills that can be used to earn a living (p. 153).

Low levels of education and skilled training are common among the poor and racial minorities. This make them prone to engaging in offences which later lead to incarceration. Biased incarceration for minorities also comes from existence of slim economic opportunities for minorities. Racial minorities, especially Black males, find it hard to survive in the economically unfavorable and turbulent living conditions in their neighborhoods which often lead them to crime. The same situation explains why individuals from poor backgrounds tend to be involved more in crime (Pettit and Western p. 153).

Engineering of social bias

The social justice system also participates in engineering the bias challenges in incarceration rates. For instance, research has shown that racial minorities and the poor are punitively policed, prosecuted, and incarcerated as opposed to racial majorities and the rich. According to Pettit and Western, racial minorities and the poor are considered threatening or troublesome by the criminal justice system (p.153-54).

Policing efforts tend to be more concentrated in racial minority regions as well as poor neighborhoods, a factor that may explain the high levels of incarceration among African American males and poor citizens. The economic disadvantages faced by racial minorities propel lower levels of education which attract high concentrations of policing, prosecution, and incarceration rates.

Effects of biased mass incarceration

The biased mass incarceration has enormous negative effects on the affected groups. Research has focused on the impact of mass incarceration of minorities on the areas of personal development, family structure, economic development of communities, and crime. According to Crutchfield and Weeks, mass incarceration of Black males tends to disrupt the family structure which in turn affects the upbringing of children (p.48).

The high rates of incarceration of Black males usually lead to parenting gaps which in turn contribute to the development of a delinquent culture due to the absence of father figures. Another challenge occurs on a personal level where the process of transition to adulthood occurs in jail for many incarcerated individuals. According to Pettit and Western, imprisonment has become a new stage for a significant number for many young low-skilled Black men.

As a result, the normal transition process is altered and these individuals become socially disoriented. Mass imprisonment of minorities also affects communities through deprivation of economic progress that would result from the human capital provided by the imprisoned parties.

Reducing bias

Over the past few years, different strategies have been adopted to ensure that the bias in mass incarceration is reduced. The main players in these strategies have been federal and state governments, communities, and prisons. According to Norris, legislative authorities in a number of states as well as in the federal government have realized the impact of economic disadvantages on the rates of incarceration on minority groups (p.497-98).

Legislative efforts have been implemented to ensure that such social amenities such as schools and training centers are improved in such areas. Education has been fronted as a key to reducing the mass incarceration of minorities

State and federal authorities have directed resources to these communities to ensure that education benefits the minorities by providing them with skills to pursue economic interests (Mauer p.89-93). Also, prison systems have implemented training policies to ensure smooth reentry of former inmates into the society. Te aim is to reduce the risk of recidivism. By imparting working and social skills to prisoners, the correctional facilities ensure that individuals’ easy reentry into society

Short term and long term strategies in reducing social bias

Both short- and long-term strategies need to be applied to reduce the challenge of biased mass incarceration. As aforementioned, some of the challenges are engineered by the criminal justice system. The handling of these challenges constitutes the short-term strategies to deal with biased mass incarceration of minorities

The social justice system should be readjusted to have equality. For instance, police officers need to exercise equality when policing Black, Hispanic, and White communities (Mauer p.87-89). Additionally, prosecution needs to apply equal rules when dealing with people from different backgrounds. Judges also need to avoid sentencing bias on the lines of gender, class, and race.

Long-term strategies should focus on establishing a fair playground for minority groups. This would ensure that all people are provided with equal economic, social, and political opportunities. Education for Black communities, for instance, will ensure that young people obtain skills to compete fairly in the job market. Reformation of the criminal justice system to ensure equality and fairness is also a long-term strategy that can help achieve reduced mass incarceration among minority groups. More information

Works Cited

Crutchfield, Robert D., and Gregory A. Weeks. “The effects of mass incarceration on communities of color.” Issues in Science and Technology 32.1 (2015): 109.

Dirks, Danielle, Caroline Heldman, and Emma Zack. “‘She’s White and She’s Hot, So She Can’t Be Guilty’: Female Criminality, Penal Spectatorship, and White Protectionism.” Contemporary justice review 18.2 (2015): 160-177.

Mauer, Marc. “Addressing racial disparities in incarceration.” The Prison Journal 91.3_suppl (2011): 87S-101S.

Norris, Jesse J. “State efforts to reduce racial disparities in criminal justice: Empirical analysis and recommendations for action.” Gonzaga Law Review 47 (2011): 493-530.

Oleson, James C. “The New Eugenics: Black Hyper-Incarceration and Human Abatement.” Social Sciences 5.4 (2016): 1-20.

Pettit, Becky, and Bruce Western. “Mass imprisonment and the life course: Race and class inequality in US incarceration.” American sociological review 69.2 (2004): 151-169.

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