Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Final Blog: Race and Social class in the Criminal Justice System


The debate of whether or not race and class plays a significant role in the criminal justice system still remains a big question. You will get different answers from different people.  For example, if you talk to people who have been to prison or has been  part of the criminal justice system you will get a different answer than someone who just relies on the media and what they see. I am one of those who has experience in the criminal justice system. Not only because I am majoring in it, but because I have actually worked at a prosecutor’s office.  I would say yes. This is simply based on the patterns that I saw with in my time with the prosecutor’s office and some research. As for the question of whether or not class place a role in criminal justice system, I think the answer to that is it depends. I don’t think that the social class matters too much, but I think if you are a celebrity or a famous person you will get out of anything. . This question  is harder to answer, but at the end of the day, I think that it does not matter at all.

It is kind of unfortunate that this is even a subject that we have to study. It really kills me to say this, but the answer to this question is yes. Yes, race does play a huge role in the criminal justice system. The first time that the question arose for me was when I found out about few of my colleagues. Long story short, my white American colleagues got less time in prison for the same crime that was committed by my African-American colleagues. After doing some research, I found out that This occurs outside of the courtroom too. According to statistics. “Once convicted, black offenders receive longer sentences compared to white offenders. The U.S. Sentencing Commission stated that in the federal system black offenders receive sentences that are 10 percent longer than white offenders for the same crimes. To be more specific, 1 in every 12 African Americans in their 20’s are in the criminal justice system as prisoners (Morris, 1). The Sentencing Project reports that African Americans are 21 percent more likely to get arrested than their white counterparts. Students of color face harsher punishments in school than their white peers, leading to a higher number of youth of color incarcerated. Black and Hispanic students represent more than 70 percent of those involved in school-related arrests or referrals to law enforcement. Currently, African Americans make up two-fifths and Hispanics one-fifth of confined youth today. to be sentenced to prison.” the main argument here is that people of color get longer sentences than their white counterparts.


Social class plays a role in the criminal justice system. A  key reason why whether or not the social class in the criminal justice system is so hard is because it seems like the only rich people that get away crimes are the celebrities. This includes Wall street CEOs, Professional athletes, politicians and even Actors/Actresses. There are a lot of celebrities that get away with crimes. One example is the Donte Stallworth incident. Donte Stallworth was an ex-nfl player who played for Cleveland Browns. On March 14, 2009 Donte Stallworth got in a car accident which ended up killing a pedestrian. Mr. Stallworth did admit that he was drinking the night before. Three weeks later, Mr. Stallworth was charged with DUI manslaughter.His sentence was that he got 30 days in jail and 2 years of probation. This basically means that he cannot leave his residence without permission. That is a really short sentence as is, but what was even stranger was that Mr. Stallworth was supposed to pay the Reyes’ (Mario Reyes’ family) $2,500. The Reyes’ did not want the money. Instead, they wanted him to donated the $2,500 to the charity group Mother Against Drunk Driving (Philips,  A lot of people argue that on the other we have Aaron Hernandez’s case which is literally resulted in the exact opposite of how Donte Stallworth’s did. Mr. Hernandez got life in prison.

One issue that is probably not that important, but still kind of important enough is the body structure. Study shows that wealthier people tend to be slimmer because they tend to like running more than lifting weights and playing sports.  According to Lisa McIntyre’s book The Practical Skeptic: Core Concepts in Sociology, she describes 3 different body types. the first one is ectomorphs which is basically when someone is thin and fragile. The second body type is endomorphs which is when someone is short and fat. The final type of body type is mesomorphs which is muscular and athletic (McIntyre, 172). Normally people of higher social classes are ectomorphs and look pretty innocent while people who are poorer are either endomorphs or mesomorphs and look like they committed a crime.


Donte Stallworth at his trial

The question about whether or not the race plays a key role in the criminal justice system is still a debatable topic. This will always be one of the most debatable topics ever. There is really no one answer to this question. You can ask anyone you want, but you will get different answers from people. I maybe a little biased because as a  colored individual has who had their fair share of run ins with the criminal justice system. Not only that, but I have had experience in observing the criminal justice system. After doing a little research, I found that it is very common for race to play a key role in the criminal justice system. This also includes in the “criminal justice system” for schools. Meaning that colored students tend to get suspended or even expelled more than their white counterparts, leading to a higher number of youth of color incarcerated. Black and Hispanic students represent more than 70 percent of those involved in school-related arrests or referrals to law enforcement. It is obvious these numbers differ by state, county and even cities, but even working within the criminal justice system I saw similar numbers. I did notice the pattern at my place of work.

Another issue that should be addressed is whether or not social class plays a key role in the criminal justice system. After doing some research, I found a common theme. That theme was that the only time social class plays a role in the criminal justice system is if they are a celebrity/ famous person. Other than that. people who are wealthier do have a slight advantage because they can pay themselves out, but other than that, it does not play a big  role in the criminal justice system. Even on occasions, their celebrity status does not matter. An example of this is the Aaron Hernandez case. He was a former NFL receiver who got life in prison. Although, like i said earlier, most celebrities get off pretty easy.



  • Cole, D. (1999). No Equal Justice. New York, New York: W.W. Norton and Company.
  • Mauer, M. (2007). Uneven justice:states rates by incarceration by race and ethnicity. The Sentencing Project.
  • Stallworth Charged in man’s Death. (2009, April 1). Retrieved December 14, 2015, from
  • McIntyre, L. (2006). The practical skeptic: Core concepts in sociology (3rd ed.). Boston: McGraw-Hill Higher Education.

Race and Class in the Criminal Justice System.

Does race play a role in the criminal justice system?

This issue is very important to me because I have experienced this on a personal level. I am not going to talk too much about that though. That is for another day, but the answer to that first question is that it is unanswerable. The reason why I said this is because every criminal justice system is different. The media only shows what they want to show. This makes it seem like the Criminal Justice system is cruel. Which it can be sometimes. For example, some of the most popular stories in the past 2 years or so include the Ferguson story, the riots in Baltimore, the “I can’t breathe” campaign. More recently, the shooting on the African-American church in South Carolina, Another major event that everyone is talking about is the case of Ahmed the 14 year old engineer. All these cases that I stated bring up the question on race. For example, If Michael Brown (Ferguson) was white would he have been dead right now? This question may never be answered. I can say  from experience that no one will truly know if race plays a role in the criminal justice system unless they actually go to court and observe a few cases. The cases that I listed above are just few of the thousands and thousands of cases heard in courts all over the United States per day. While i was interning at the Prosecutor’s office in Olympia, I observed only 1 case were I felt like race was an issue. All others were fairly fair and was based on their crimes.



Picture Source:

This picture describes what happened in the Ferguson case. This picture depicts what the justice system was thinking during the trial. On the other hand in the recent case with Ahmed Mohammad, he was let go after being arrested. Given that ‘he should not have been arrested in the first place.


Picture Source:

The picture above depicts the average amount of earnings per race. Not only that, but it also depicts the difference between women and men. Just based on this, I did some more research and found some surprising or I guess not so surprising. The paragraph below describes my findings.


How about social class? Does race matter if an individual is in a higher social class? After spending 2 hours on this subject, I came to the conclusion that there is a small relationship. I say this because according to NPR.COM, the only racial group that earns more than whites is the Asian demographic. According to the White demographic earns $825 for every $1,000 while the Asian demographic is at $966 for every $1,000. It is much lower for African-Americans and the Hispanic/Latinos. For example, the African-American demographic earns $620 for every $1,000 while the Hispanics/Latinos are making $559 for every $1,000. Ironically, The top two demographics who are in prison are the African-Americans and the Hispanic/Latinos. 1 in every 15 African American men and 1 in every 36 Hispanic men are incarcerated in comparison to 1 in every 106 white men.As for the Asians, they have 3,188 inmates in prison which makes up 1.8% of all inmates. This is according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Judging by this, Social Class does have a little bit of influence on this subject. Also, one thing that I noticed was that the crime rate was a lot lower in areas where the income was higher. It works the other way around too. Lower the income, the higher the crime rate.

Fun, but terrifying facts:

  •  Students of color face harsher punishments in school than their white peers, leading to a higher number of youth of color incarcerated 


  • According to recent data by the Department of Education, African American students are arrested far more often than their white classmates 


  • The war on drugs has been waged primarily in communities of color where people of color are more likely to receive higher offenses 



1.) Does race take part in the criminal justice system?

2.) Why does the media only show one side of the story.