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Racism and American Criminal Law



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America is a nation that has been struggling to overcome its racially discriminatory foundations since the Civil War, and while Americans have made huge steps in the right direction there are still many ways in which racism persists within the society.  This is a fact that has direct repercussions within the American criminal law system, and while there may be many explanations for the apparent racism of the system it does exist nonetheless.

There are 70% of those imprisoned in the United States today that are non-whites, and this is an astounding number.  There are two general belief systems to explain this high percentage, and both have widespread support both in America and throughout the world.  First, it is thought that given the poor conditions that many non-white people grow up in, they are more apt to turn to a life of crime to offset their poverty and low education.  In this sense, poverty and crime breeds more of the same, and until a way is found to break the cycle it may well be expected that the higher crime rate will be found amongst people of color instead of whites who have more often been born into a higher rung of society. 

The other major theory concerning the high proportion of colored people in prison is that although whites and non-whites tend to commit crimes to the same degree, racial prejudice finds the latter more often pursued and imprisoned.  This theory holds that it is those people within law enforcement that expect the higher percentage of crime to come from non-white people and therefore their arrests are made accordingly.  Whether this, the former theory or some other reasoning is true, the fact is that the American criminal law system does appear to be somewhat racist. 

In truth, American law has been in constant flux since the Civil War in trying to deal with new issues surrounding racism because of the new ideal of equality between the races.  Since that initial period of freedom and the following freedom and equality established for people of races other than Caucasian or African-american, law and criminal law has been changing to incorporate new information and to dispel any incorrect notions concerning any race.  Fragments of an original racism throughout America still show through and it is these that must be focused on and changed. 

Perhaps criminal law itself is not to blame so much as a poorly constructed infrastructure that allows for minority groups to reside in poorer areas without generally access to the same public services as better off citizens, who are usually white.  A fairer public service platform might be the first thing that sets true equality in motion and changes the perspective that non-whites are more likely criminal in intent, or that they are in fact inferior at all.  Although on the surface criminal law in America is racist (and this can really not be disputed) we need to look at the reasons underneath such a status before placing blame. 



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