Essay Example on African Americans and Criminal Justice: Unequal Representation and Its Impact

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  4
Wordcount:  965 Words
Date:  2023-01-04

African Americans are disproportionately represented in all aspects of the criminal justice system. More frequent contact with the police and lack of representation leads to more frequent contact to the criminal system. The criminal justice system aim is to provide equal justice for all without discrimination due to age, sex, class, ethnic origin or race. It is the American criminal justice system that such bias exists to African Americans. There has been a lot of debate and controversy in the recent past, concerning the issue of the legal system based on an individual's race.

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This research article aims to address this issue in a comprehensive, objective and in an informative manner. It is approximated that there are 30 million African Americans that live in the U.S., this accounts for 13 percent of the country's population, African Americans, therefore, constitute the largest racial minority group. Today African Americans are heavily concentrated in urban areas. This increases more contact with law enforcement officers. An astonishing 48 percent of the African American population has been incarcerated, such figures have provoked allegations that police over-arrest minorities, court prosecutors pursue their cases more aggressively, judges sentence them severely and correctional institutions take part in making sure that they stay incarcerated for a longer time compared to the whites (Free, 1996).

A survey was conducted between blacks and whites on "Eyewitness identification," done to determine the reasons for wrongful convictions. False identification may indicate racial discrimination since the rate of error for misidentification is higher than that of white defendants (Gross, 2017). The own-race theory postulates that "witnesses are better at identifying suspects of their own race than suspects of another race (Meissner, 2001). The research shows that a white was more likely to have high recall of the robbery incident if the thief was white compared to when the thief was black, but a black person had the same recall for both incidents of black and a white thief. Though the results were inconsistent, one factor stood out that white participants had a higher recall accuracy when they viewed the video with a white thief, to the black thief, this is because whites are keen and want to look for a reason to justify the white thief's action, but when it is a black person stealing, they are not attentive to detail, it in their minds that these are the kinds of stuff associated with blacks. The result is consistent with the predictions that own-race bias may impact view of events.

Racism is one other problem encountered by the minority groups; African Americans, Asians and Indians, racism is a stressor that contributes to an imbalance in mental and physical health. (Brondolo et al., 2009) defines racism with the use of a more general term ethnic discrimination to refer to unfair treatment received because of one's ethnicity, where "ethnicity" refers to the various grouping of individuals based on race or culture of origin. Because targets belong to stigmatize social groups and may have faced prejudice throughout their lives, they may desire to change others perception of their social group via confrontation to enhance their quality of life (Rasinski & Czopp, 2010). The research also shows that challenging a commenter of a racist remark reduces the commenters prejudice and feeling of guilt. People are sometimes resistant to label a person racist for a racist remark but are more to label the person racist when the person's behavior is harmful and infer intent (Swim et al., 2003). People from high-status groups or are the majority of the group do not recognize bias, because they are not usually victims of racial discrimination.

A survey was done in the University of Maryland with the aim of gathering critical instances of racial discrimination and examining the factors that lead the perpetrator to be termed as racist and the factors that led to the confrontation of the racist individual. The participants of the survey were asked to voluntary describe a recent event where they witnessed or experienced racism. They were also to include what was said, where they were and the people involved. According to the results, as predicted it shows that women were more likely to perceive the perpetrator as racist possibly due to experiencing negative moods from the incident (Swim et al., 2003). Some of the reason why some of the people are not able to confront the racists is due to the implication in confrontation. People might not know the right way to approach this issue, this is because a lot is at stake. It was not conclusive since the sample size was small, as part of recommendation the sample size is to be increased and other people of color included in the survey.


Meissner, C. A., & Brigham, J. C. (2001). Thirty years of investigating the own-race bias in memory for faces: A meta-analytic review. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 7(1), 3. Retrieved from (

Brondolo, E., Ver Halen, N. B., Pencille, M., Beatty, D., & Contrada, R. J. (2009). Coping with racism: A selective review of the literature and a theoretical and methodological critique. Journal of behavioral medicine, 32(1), 64-88. Retrieved from (

Rasinski, H. M., & Czopp, A. M. (2010). The effect of target status on witnesses' reactions to confrontations of bias. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 32(1), 8-16. Retrieved from (

Swim, J. K., Hyers, L. L., Cohen, L. L., Fitzgerald, D. C., & Bylsma, W. H. (2003). African American college students' experiences with everyday racism: Characteristics of and responses to these incidents. Journal of Black Psychology, 29(1), 38-67. Retrieved from (

Free, M. D. (1996). African Americans and the criminal justice system (Vol. 13). Taylor & Francis.

Gross, S. R., Possley, M., & Stephens, K. (2017). Race and wrongful convictions in the United States.

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Essay Example on African Americans and Criminal Justice: Unequal Representation and Its Impact. (2023, Jan 04). Retrieved from

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