Race and ethnicityhas always been an issue to the way the criminal justice system functions. Some ethnic groups are targetedmore than others and have been for a very long time. An age-old question hasbeen the reason why. Why are some groups on the spotlight and viewed asinherently bad and criminal while others are considered to be lawful and ethical?In countries with a lot of diversity it is very clear that non-white people aremore likely to be the victims of hate crime for their religious beliefs, theirethnicity, their colour and their sexuality. In the following paragraphs manyquestions that are important in resolving the issues around race and why theCriminal Justice Systems seems to focus on certain groups of people whenlooking for someone to blame but forsakes when they are the victims of criminalactivities. Formany decades sociologists and criminologists in the United States have arguedwhether people of colour (especially African Americans) are misrepresented inthe Criminal Justice System.
Latter reviews of the research reveal that morethan half of the studies surrounding the subject identify race as an importantcomponent. In his report aboutStephen Lawrence, a black teenage boy who got killed by six white boys whilewaiting for the bus with a friend, William MacPherson (1999) said thatinstitutional racism is the collective failure of an organization to provide anappropriate and professional service to people either because of theirculture, colour, or ethnic origin. Moreover, MacPherson conducted an inquiry asto why the police and the crown prosecution service are prejudice in handlingsome cases because their effort to pursue evidence and prosecute the offenderare inadequate. With that being said it is clear that the prejudice of theCriminal Justice System can indeed explain the disproportionate treatment ofethnic minority groups. When ethnic minority groups are the victims of a crimesometimes their cases get swept under the rug by the Criminal Justice Systemdue to the racist nature that is embedded in our wider society. An example ofdisproportionality in the Criminal Justice System is the conviction andsentence rates of indictable offences.
Although more white people were foundguilty of that said offence, black and ethnic minority groups sentenced rateswere higher. On the contrary belief 75percent of the people who are stopped while driving in England and Wales arewhite while the remaining 25 percent being black, Asian, mixed, or other. But,the percentage of people who got searched and arrested as a consequence tobeing stopped were higher for black, mixed, and Chinese or other.
In the UnitedStates the arrest per 1000 people population showed great disproportionality.More than half of the people being arrested were black (56.5 per cent), almost38 per cent were mixed, 20.5 per cent Asian, 19 per cent white while theremaining were Chinese or other. In 2008 the 40 per cent of the male prisonpopulation were black. McConville et al (2014) and others have found evidenceof racial discrimination on the sentencing decision made by the court. Morespecifically Asians and Blacks are more likely to be treated unprofessionallyduring their court trial. An argument by Hall et al (2013) was made to pointout the increased policing of black people and the stereotypes attached to themdue to the exaggeration of black crime of the media and the state.
In addition,the disproportionality of the Criminal Justice System can be detected in theoverrepresentation of black people who are imprisoned. The disproportionalityof people of ethnic minority background cannot go unnoticed. Ethnic minoritiesare the least likely to be accepted as practitioners within the CriminalJustice System, that’s the reason Bowling (2002) implied that the recruitmentpractices are prejudiced. Very often people of colour and of ethnic minoritybackground are discouraged from joining or continuing a job within the CriminalJustice System due to past experiences and negative feedback of other ethnicminority people. Also, the racism they encounter from their colleagues canattribute to that. Considering all the above information, it is safe to saythat the racism within the Criminal Justice System can explain thedisproportionate treatment of minority ethnic groups. In addition, women ofcolour and of ethnic background feel that once they join the force they will besubjected to racism and sexism. Some researchers wanted to discover the reasonbehind disproportionality in the juvenile justice system.
Most delicatelyaccounted the reason behind the disproportionality to be “extra-legal” or”research selection” while a smaller group of researchers (Debro, 1975, Mann,1980, Wright, 1990) argued that the reason is racism of the Criminal JusticeSystem. An even smaller group (Hagan, 1974, Kleck, 1981) argued that the reasonof disproportionality in numbers can be explained by the higher involvementrates in serious crimes by youths of colour. Scarman (1981) said ‘a policeforce which fails to reflect the ethnic diversity of our society will neversucceed in securing the full support of all its sections’ On a different note,an issue has been raised on whether migration has become criminalised or not.One might argue that due to the many migration laws that exist today thatmigration has indeed been criminalised. The European union in their attempt togovern migration created new criminal divisions of irregular, illegal andundocumented migrants. In 2009 the council of Europe commissioner expressed hisconcern about the tendency to criminalise the irregular entry and presence ofmigrants in Europe. He indicated histhoughts by saying the following, ‘such method of controlling internationalmovement corrodes established international law principles; it also causes manyhuman tragedies without achieving its purpose of genuine control.
‘ It was alsostated that irregular immigrants are not criminals and should not be treated assuch, they should not be subjected to detention at all and that member statesof the European Union are obligated to find an alternative to detention andthat detention should be as short as possible. The immigration law has beeninfluenced and directed to be what it is today by crimes committed byimmigrants. A federal statute surrounding the law is to restrict any foreignerwho has been convicted of a criminal activity from entering the country. Afterthat, the criminal and immigration law have developed a better relationship,where many immigration violations are characterised as criminal offences andcan lead to deportation. Moreover, in many of the European states when aforeigner who is crossing the European borders from a non-European country andis subjected to immigration control can face administrative sanctions. The residents of a country feel threaten whenimmigrants arrive because they expect to act unlawfully, that’s is the imagegiven to them by news and the rest of the media. They focus only on the crimescommitted by immigrants and that helps to their criminalisation.
Additionally,immigrants are afraid to report crimes committed against due to the constantfear of being deported. In 2017 the president elect of the United States DonaldTrump, issued a new ban, descripted by the people as a ‘Muslim ban’, thatdidn’t allow people from certain countries to enter the United States. Stayingon the subject of the U.S, Mexican mothers and fathers were being deported andconsequently divided from their American born children in an attempt to clearthe land of immigrants from immigrants. In 2012 almost 400.
000 people wereremoved from U.S soil. People flee their countries seeking asylum and getrejected in the process or they get detained for a long time before beingreleased under supervision. An example of migrants being criminalised are thevery strict asylum policies of Sweden. Many migrants chose to share theirexperiences, many got detained in centres for as long as 25 months, other gotsend back to their countries and many, who unfortunately did not get the chanceto share their story, chose to commit suicide because they would face a harshertreatment if they were eventually transported back home. Detention and removalof an individual from a country are seen as mechanism for preserving theirnational security. With all of the above being said it is clear that migrationhas become criminalised. Everyone residing in a country, whether that is apolice officer or a salon owner, never expect from an immigrant to be lawabiding because that is what they are shown.
Moreover, many ethnicists want topreserve their national status and ethnicity intact they feel threatened byanyone foreign. Since the dawn of time people travelled countries andestablished civilisations and the world as we know it today. The world wouldnot be the same if Alexander the Great stayed in Macedonia and if ChristopherColumbus did not discover America. It is true that these people may not havebeen the best humanitarians but in the aftermath, they will be known for ever.People would travel from land to land when their provisions would run out orwhen they were threatened by war.
Today people might migrate because of economic,social, political, or environmental reasons. Today, more thanever before, people are afraid of going to crowded spaces, like a concert, thetrain station, or a shopping centre, due to the constant fear of a terroristattack. Terrorism is very hard to tackle because no one can really know when orwhere it’s going to happen. The government and the police have taken somemeasures when it comes to combating terrorism. If you take a stroll around thecity centre, you will see armed police officers patrolling the streets.
Thatmay be scary and unnatural to see but people feel safer when they know they areprotected and that there is someone there that will act no matter what. Whatmust not happen is to target certain groups of people because the majority ofterrorists belong or rather believe they belong in those groups. After a majorevent that impacts people’s lives they tend to associate the religious orethnic groups of the people responsible to crime committed. After the 9/11incident in the United States the West targeted Muslims, attacked them and madethem feel unwanted and unsafe. There was an instance when a group of friendswere removed from the aeroplane because they were speaking Arabic and the otherpassengers felt threatened. A country that is the home to diverse group ofpeople cannot target and try to push its people out.
If the police havesuspicions and evidence that someone, who happens to belong in an ethnicminority group, is going to do something to harm the society, then they haveevery reason to keep an eye on them. But, to target innocent people becausethey are Muslim, or Arab is unjustifiable. In addition, black people should notbe targeted because of their colour or because they look “dangerous” in oursociety’s standards. Our society has for a very long time associated blackpeople with criminal activities.
That’s the reason why the police are moreanxious and observant when they encounter people of colour. The general racismof our society is also planted in the minds of police officers who may or maynot act in a prejudiced and racist manner when interacting with black andethnic minority groups. Targeting religious groups and putting surveillance onpredominately Muslim communities is going to create a schism not only with thepolice but with other groups as well.
The police should not target minor groupsbut rather individuals who pose a threat to national security, targeting all ofpeople within a religious or ethnic group is going to create chaos in societyand an awful relationship between the two. The job of the police is to make eachand every person of the community regardless of their skin colour, theirreligion or their sexuality feel protected and safe. That will create atrustworthy relation among the police and the public and the it will help inthe smooth function of the society. When a person of colour is stopped or israndomly selected for a check at the airport they automatically think isbecause of their clothing or the colour of their skin, and most of the timesthat is the reason behind it. Another question that needs to be answered iswhether slavery was a hate crime.
This is a very sensitive question that needsto be addressed discretely. There is no doubt that people of colour have been,and some are still going through one of the most horrific situations anyonecould think of. To this day black people are being enslaved and sold, in someparts of Africa. There is actual footage of an auction where people are buyingblack Africans. These people are being told that they are going with a boat toa different country but in reality, they are being sold as slaves for 400dollars. Slavery is not a new-found issue, it has been going on since theancient times and not only black people were subjected to it. After 1400 B.
C.slavery began to rise again with the first documented case being in Lagos,Portugal in 1444. After 400 years nations began to abolish slavery. Theabolition of Slavery Act passed in 1807 criminalising the British Atlanticslavery trade.
Starting from the beginning of the year 1808, the United statespasses legislation forbidding the slave trade. In the years to follow mostEuropean countries abolished slavery such us, Spain and most of the Spanishcolonies, Holland, Sweden, and France. One of the most monumental moments inU.S. history was when then president Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the liberationof slaves starting from the 1st of January 1863. The 13thamendment follow soon after in 1865 banning slavery.
one of the human rightsstated by the United Nations in 1943 is that no one will be held in slavery orin servitude slavery and that the slave trade and slavery must be restricted inall forms. Going back to the initial question if slavery is or is not a hatecrime. First of all, what is a hate crime? A hate crime is any crime orcriminal activity targeted towards an individual because of their skin colour,their religion, their sexual orientation, or their gender.
It is difficult toanswer the question, but one might argue that indeed slavery was a hate crimedue to the fact that black people were targeted because of the colour of theirskin. There is no indication that in the past people were actually prosecutedfor owing slaves and if they did there is no evidence that shows that they wereprosecuted for a hate crime. On the contrary, someone might say that in ancienthistory and more particularly ancient Rome anyone could be sold as a slaveregardless of their race or religion. Moreover, slavery could not be classifiedas a crime back in the 17th century because owning slaves wascompletely legal. One thing is for sure, people are not property, they cannotbe sold or bought. There is a huge difference between cleaning houses for moneyon your own terms and being sold to work 20 hours a day for the profit ofsomeone else. To conclude, todayin our modern society many things from the past that are degrading human livesare still happening today.
Prejudices and behaviours that indicate that somehuman lives somehow are worth less than others are still deep rooted in theheart of our society. People are afraid to get a job in the Criminal JusticeSystem because they don’t want to experience verbal and psychological abuse.The racism of some people that is in fact coming from our racist society andthe stereotypes that surrounds all kinds of people, make the idea of a just andfair world seem like a fantasy. Humanlives are being sold like a piece of clothing and everyone else in the worldjust goes on with their life because they are simply not affected. Children ofcolour and of ethnic minority background need to feel represented, seeing a manor a woman of colour in uniform will help them trust the police and to makethem want and know that it’s possible to be in such position when they grow up.
Furthermore, people need to stop pretending that people are inherently bad or Muslimsare by default terrorists, black people are thugs and people of any ethnicgroups are criminals. People are just people and they need to be treatedequally and respectfully.