Sunday, March 21, 2010

Blacks And Criminal Justice

African-Americans in America are under constant scrutiny and surveillance by the Criminal Justice System. The war on drugs has single handedly funded an intrusive quest to incarcerate record numbers of African-Americans. However, since its arrival in the 80s, the war on drugs has failed to address the real drug problems in this country. The big drug kingpins continue to earn astronomical profits while corner non violent young black drug dealers face long prison sentences. Drug force agencies such as the D.E.A, F.B.I and Swat Teams regularly raid innocent citizens homes with guns drawn in the presence of children; in search of drugs that are not present. Unreliable informant testimony often leads to poor innocent civilians being charged as felons. Once charged indigents have no chance to fight for justice since they cannot afford proper representation. Often times poor people plead guilty in order to avoid serving several years in prison due to maximum sentencing. Blacks are disproportionately criminalized by the Criminal Justice System, although they do not commit crime at any higher rate than any other group of people in America. In a so called post racial society more injustices are being committed, but laws written by white supremacist promoters justify injustice. Police officers invade inner cities with malice intent to destroy the livelihood of hardworking black people. Blacks on a daily basis around the nation are searched unconstitutionally. Thus, an overwhelming number of young black men and women are branded with criminal records. As Michelle Alexander stated in “The New Jim Crow” blacks with felony convictions are delegated to a second caste status like blacks during Jim Crow.

Terry vs. Ohio upheld the notion that reasonable suspicion rather than probable cause is all that is needed to conduct a search on an individual. No consent from an individual to conduct a search is needed, so police officers have the discretion to consider who is suspicious and who is not, and who deserves to be searched. This policy disproportionately affects poor blacks since poor blacks often live in inner cities, and inner cities are seen as a hot bed for crime, although crime occurs in all communities. From a young age blacks are taught what and what not to say to police and to also be weary of police officers. Since local police agencies fail in maintaining a strong relationship with black communities; police officers often have a hard time communicating with blacks and a disconnect between blacks and law enforcement is present. Since blacks are weary of police officers, when stopped by an officer blacks are often nervous or even evasive. If an innocent kid runs from the police because he/she is sincerely scared of the police, the police have reasonable suspension to search the kid although he did not commit a crime. The fourth amendment protects blacks from unreasonable search and seizure, but Terry vs. Ohio grants police officers the ability to conduct arbitrary searches. So, if an officer visualizes a black male in a high crime neighborhood the officer has the reasonable suspicion to question and search him. Furthermore, officers are granted unconstitutional authority to use discretion rather than probable cause in implementing searches. Blacks who cannot afford to move to the suburbs should not be criminalized and forced to engage in unconstitutional searches just because they happen to live in pseudo high crime areas. These policies are nothing more than defacto discrimination.

Race neutral policies drastically harm African- Americans. These policies treat blacks as though they do not have a disparate impact on them. Policy makers must address the disparities in regards to blacks in the Criminal Justice System and do further research to find out why blacks are affected disproportionately. The public must fight for transparency from local police departments, and blacks cannot continue to be treated like second class citizens. Unconstitutional search and seizures are not tolerated in upper class white communities because police officers know better; whites are granted their fourth amendment rights. Black criminologists must study and write more about these issues because only they can truly touch upon these issues properly. New ideas and strategies must be implemented to challenge status quo.

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