Structured Inequality and Incarceration

Topics: Illegal drug trade, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Crime Pages: 7 (2837 words) Published: September 2, 2013
Structured Inequality and Incarceration
Lori Young
Chamberlain College of Nursing

When it comes to arrest and incarceration, black men are overrepresented in comparison to Hispanics and whites. Over forty years ago the Civil Rights Act was implemented and racism still continues today due in part to a form of cultural imagery. This structured inequality is evident in the politics of government and all levels of the criminal justice system. The very system that is to be fair has been found to be racially disparate in the treatment of blacks. The causes and existence of this state has been researched for over the last twenty years as to it why does it exist, what are the consequences and how to correct it.

Structured Inequality and Incarceration
Blacks are arrested and incarcerated at a higher rate than Whites, Hispanics and other minorities. While statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (2011) show that crime has decreased for 2011, the rate of incarceration for blacks has increased. Research, through the years, has shown a form of racial oppression, sustained by structural discrimination and inequality (Quigley, 2010). This matter of racial disparity or inequality has been supported by government, law enforcement and the judicial system. As Jim Crow came to represent the racial oppression and segregation after the Civil War and before the Civil Rights Movement, many are comparing this mass incarceration to being a new Jim Crow type of racism, separate but not equal (Alexander, 2011). Structural discrimination is shown when a dominant group has policies and behaviors that have power or jurisdiction over the non-dominant group (Coker 2003). The structured inequality becomes apparent when these areas of jurisdiction are used to aggressively affect the well being and socioeconomic welfare of a group. Whites, as the dominant group, have the most control over the function of law enforcement, the judicial system and government. Racial disparity occurs when one or more of the minority groups, such as blacks, are overrepresented in comparison to others. This disparity is evident in the area of drug arrests and incarceration of blacks in comparison to whites. According to the Sentencing Project (2012) two thirds of the prison populations serving sentences for drug offenses are persons of color. This disparity is attributed to crime in a particular area, access to legal resources, governmental legislation and racial bias which is overt (The Sentencing Project, 2008). Urban areas, with higher populations of blacks and open air drug markets, are policed in a different manner than suburbia. The sentencing for drug abuse violations varies according to the type of drug seized. In the area of drug arrests and incarceration for 2011, more whites were arrested than blacks (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2011). Inequality exists despite the passing of the Civil Right Act in 1964, which was to include all groups, by excluding blacks based on race (Miller, 2010) Federalism in American history was used to acclimatize slavery and prevent racial equity after the Civil War. American federalism today as described by Miller (2010) is that the Federal Government is limited in its power and political views to deal with the socioeconomic problem which lead to crime and incarceration. As in the area of law enforcement, local and state government has a larger role in arrests and incarceration for drug abuse offenses than at the federal level. Elected officials are hesitant to become involved in issues of racial inequality. There is the fear of damaging their political aspirations and position unless it is connected to a high profile attachment, as in a war or environmental disaster. Authority regarding socioeconomic issues such as crime is spread from the federal to state and local levels of government. This in turn marginalizes the minorities of urban areas, making it difficult...

References: Walker S Spohn C DeLone M 2011 color of justice: Race, ethnicity and crime in americaWalker, S., Spohn, C., & DeLone, M. (2011). The color of justice: Race, ethnicity and crime in America (5th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
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