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Law and Justice in Real Time Race and the CJ System

War on Drugs…War on (some) Drugs (possessed by certain individuals)

When I first arrived at this institution, the class sizes and the amount of reading that was assigned did little to concern me. The biggest culture shock was the normalization of drug use. A time before the legalization of cannabis in the state of Washington. I was surrounded by students who spoke of their drug habit with no fear, voicing annoyance that they had to figure out who to get it from, smoking in dorm rooms and right outside of dorm room buildings. Confusion mixed with anger flowed through my mind. I spent all of my youth being conscious of stereotypes and the need to stay clear from the slightest hint of misconduct while still being suspected. Making sure to stay far away from drugs, spending my school years constantly being monitored; banning clothing with too many pockets, limiting backpack and locker usage and being ‘cautioned’ -threatened with sporadic drug dog visits. It felt as if they were sure we would mess up and we always had to prove otherwise.

A constant fear of making a wrong decision that would ruin your life was far from the minds of all these new faces I had encountered in college. In the same months I hear those of a higher social status voice their love of cannabis I hear the tear inducing frustration of a student that spent her youth constantly battling the stigma of her peers. Since she was Mexican and her family had property their success was automatically assumed as having been a result of narcotic involvement.  The stereotype that racial minorities are the root of our drug problem is something that is still being believed as we have noted with uproar of candidate approval to a certain individual. This fear no matter how misinformed is the voice that is being heard creating an enforcement of policies reflective of the misinformed belief.

The early seventies proclaimed drug abuse public enemy number one. Giving birth to the War on Drugs and thus enhancing law enforcement and judicial practices. It has cost one trillion dollars after millions of arrest and has resulted in no changes to illegal drug use. Instead we have 500,000 people incarcerated for nonviolent drug crimes.  This call for action against drugs have resulted in hyperactive policing of poor persons and minorities even though drug usage is similar across the board and  federal studies show more drug use among white youths. Disproportionate arrests that have created horrifying circumstances where white Americans, the majority of this country use crack cocaine more than African Americans but African Americans account for 85% of crack cocaine arrests. A new focus point since the 90s being the arrest of easily targeted poor whites for use of methamphetamine. Not a war on drugs but a war on poverty as displayed by glorified drug arrests.

Early 2000s we have “Pot Princess” Julia Diaco from New York who after multiple drug sales to an undercover narcotics officer facing up to 25 years in prison was sentenced to 5 years on probation. An injustice heightened in this article at the comparison of Ashley O’Donoghue, a black man who was also arrested as a first time nonviolent drug offender who is serving seven to twenty one years. Now nearing the end of  2015 we have Sarah Furay an “adorable drug kingpin” of Texas the daughter of a DEA agent possessing five different narcotics along with packing materials and two digital scales.

After learning about the woman from Texas, her privilege and her narcotic possessions, justice would be that she would get served the life ending consequences that come to racial minorities and those living in poverty. But her arrest does little to the fact that the war on drugs has created a target of brown and black bodies and those who live in poor neighborhoods as the worst and ONLY enemy. These stereotypes have created hyper action to one that grant invisibility to another. So long as we keep drug users and dealers in our minds to a certain stereotype we keep the Sarah Furays of this country profitable in their markets and safe from incarceration and public scrutiny. If this policy were really about protecting our children by confiscating drugs that can hurt them, there would be a lot more drug raids on and around college campuses. Furthermore if the war on drugs is truly about keeping people safe which can be interpreted as keeping people healthy we should address the root of why people are seeking narcotics.







Giordani, E. (2015). Criminal Justice. In Latino stats: American Hispanics by the numbers. New York, New York: The New Press.

Haglage, A. (2015, December 1). When Whtie Girls Deal Drugs, They Walk. Retrieved December 17, 2015, from

Jarecki, E. (Director). (2013). The House I Live In [Motion picture on DVD]. Virgil Films.

Mohamed, A., & Fritsvold, E. (2012). Dorm room dealers: Drugs and the privileges of race and class (Paperback ed.). Boulder, Colorado: Lynne Rienner.
Newman, T. (2006, March 22). NYU “Pot Princess” Sentenced to Treatment and Probation Despite Multiple Drug Sales. Retrieved December 17, 2015, from

“Supply Demand” Graphic. Mike Keefe. (2009).The Denver Post.

“War on Drugs Message” Graphic. Kirk.



Islamophobia: The Stereotyping and Prejudice Towards Muslims Since 9/11

The United States has a long history of discrimination and prejudice that has led to a lot of struggles and negativity for a lot of groups. Currently, our nation holds discriminatory attitudes and practices towards many minority communities. A lot of this can derive from ethnic, religious, racial, and gender prejudices that set our nation back. Ever since the horrific events of September 11, 2001 (the day our nation was under attack), the Muslim community has been under strict scrutiny when it came to people’s fears and paranoia. After the terrorist attacks, Muslims across the nation were immediately looked down upon and many even saw themselves being watched by the American government. During this time (War on Terror), America was essentially seeing a rise in Islamophobia (dislike/prejudice against Islam/Muslims) that would eventually hurt community relations, and scrutinize innocent Muslim Americans. Now with the continued War on Terror (fight with ISIS), America sees itself heading in the same direction with negative Islamic attitudes, as well as outrageous political bans. In order for terrorism to cease and Islamophobia to end America (the government and the rest of non-Muslim society) has to be in more effective community relations with Muslim communities to ensure prosperity, security, and freedom for all is obtainable.

After the 9/11 attacks, many blamed the whole religion of Islam for preaching destruction and violence, without even considering that these hijackers (terrorists) were extreme radicals. In the Times article, “The True, Peaceful Face of Islam,” author Karen Armstrong explains that the the very word Islam is related to a longing for peace (Armstrong, 2011). When the Prophet Muhammad brought the inspired scripture known as the Koran to the Arabs in the early 7th century A.D., a major part of his mission was devoted precisely to bringing an end to the kind of mass slaughter we witnessed in the 9/11 attacks (Armstrong, 2011). However, American society does not tend to see this peaceful side of Islam, but rather mostly sees the skewed version of it from radicals. There are those in American society who see a correlation between terrorism and Islam, yet they fail to understand the idea that there are people who misinterpret scripture and take it to the extreme. Some of these extreme radicals who skew the religion of Islam (to tailor their need to kill innocent in order to get their point across) are considered fundamentalists. Fundamentalists of any religion are the one’s who take the idea of warfare and self-defense to the extreme (making them radical) without even considering a peaceful option (such as Islam proclaims). As Armstrong notes, it would be as grave a mistake to see Osama bin Laden as an authentic representative of Islam (Armstrong, 2011). From already knowing that the many American citizens see Osama Bin Laden (mastermind of 9/11) as a representation of Islam is disturbing, and is the kind of mindset that leads to prejudice, discrimination, and scapegoating of millions of Muslims who wish to cause no harm.

The religion of Islam is often unfairly presented as hateful and violent, which leads to a lot of prejudice and hatred towards Muslims in America. Currently, Americans are tending towards less favorable views of Islam which has led to a lot of negativity in U.S. communities (Zaal, 2015). According to the Council on American Islamic Relations, civil rights violations targeting Muslims in the workplace, at religious institutions, and in schools have escalated (Zaal, 2015). Sadly, many Muslims have overall been looked down upon, and have often been seen as second class citizens. The media is also a big factor in spreading Islamophobia, that includes spreading fear across the nation. Hundreds of images (media) portray Arabs as violent and barbaric (Zaal, 2012). These inaccurate depictions sometimes lead to people taking part in hate crimes against Muslims. Hate crimes against Arab and Muslim Americans have even increased dramatically in the months and years following September 11, 2001 (Cavendish, Disha, King, 2011). Many of these anti-Islamic attitudes showcases people acting in physical and psychological harm, with many Muslims often in fear for their lives. The threats of burning copies of the Koran on the anniversary of 9/11 suggest that stereotypes portraying Arabs and Muslims shows that’s negative attitudes towards Muslims is still consistent in American society (Cavendish, etc, 2011). In the eyes of many non-Arabs, a relatively large concentration of Arabs or Muslims may trigger fears of terrorism or mass violence (Cavendish, etc, 2011). Gallup polls have even indicated that almost a quarter of Americans singled out Arabs as being suspicious (Cavendish, etc, 2011). This suspicion that a lot of Americans have would mean that many would want Muslim (Middle-Eastern) people to be consistently watched and checked, as if they can never be trusted. 58 percent of Americans favored a requirement that Arabs have a special and more intensive screening process at airports (Cavendish, etc, 2011). This would mean that Homeland Security officials (TSA) could have Muslim people step aside, which increases racial profiling and prejudice. The animosity towards Muslim people is a huge problem that creates divides in our society and often discriminates (and persecutes) people, which leads to frustration on both sides.

Currently, different political leaders are pushing stereotypes forward. Right now we see some political (presidential) candidates who want to create more barriers for Muslims in our country and around the world. When these negative labels and stereotypes are compared to the actual radicals (of any religion or background) who wish to cause harm and destruction, those radicals can actually use the stereotypes to their advantage. When looking at Trumps ban on Muslims entering the U.S., it’s not only morally wrong to prevent a certain group from coming in, but it can also backfire on our nation. While Trump assumes that stopping Muslims from entering the U.S. would boost domestic security, experts say such rhetoric bolsters the message of extremist groups like ISIS, and ultimately increases animosity and potential retribution attacks against the U.S. (Salhani, 2015). If we ban a specific group of people, its very likely that we will see negativity and retaliation brought onto the United States. Even though Trumps plan only calls for banning Muslims who are currently trying to come into the U.S, it still will lead to a harsh divide (lot of problems) since many of them are political refugees trying to find safety amidst chaos. If a country (America) denies them (based on fear that terrorists will hide within the refugee population), refugees would likely have to turn back and be in the midst of danger; which might lead to being brainwashed to join the terrorists cause. ISIS often gains support by convincing vulnerable youths prone to ideological radicalization that the west is against Islam and the Muslim way of life (Salhani, 2015). Statements like Trump’s latest only reinforce that perception and potentially influences people who are susceptible to ISIS propaganda (Salhani, 2015). By creating these divides with Muslims in our community and around the world, we ultimately make social barriers which might point these people to going in the direction of radicalism.

Discrimination and prejudice is all too common to the United States. Many people of different backgrounds have seen various types of discrimination that have led to a lack of trust and truly understanding one’s culture/background. All American citizens need to realize that our nation is one big melting pot (all sorts of backgrounds coming together) and that there’s no room for stereotyping and prejudice. In some ways, when we hear of a terrorist attack, we automatically think of Islamic people who hold the ideology of seeing America being in ruins (destroyed). However, American society doesn’t realize that these radicals (extremists) can come from any background or religion. As non-Muslim American citizens approach this serious topic of terrorism, they often find themselves fuming in negativity towards Muslim communities. This type of hatred only slows down the process of integration for millions of Muslims who are innocent and believe in American values. Scapegoating Muslims also feeds into the negativity that terrorists groups (like ISIS) preach, which could ultimately make them stronger if Islamophobia persists. Its up to our nation to create more community alliances with Muslims in the U.S. and abroad so that they can feel less persecuted against. America is the land which should symbolize safety and security for anyone, no matter what background he or she comes from.


Armstrong, K. (2001, September 23). The True, Peaceful Face of Islam. TIME.

Disha, I., Cavendish, J. C., & King, R. D.. (2011). Historical Events and Spaces of   Hate: Hate Crimes against Arabs and Muslims in Post-9/11 America. Social           Problems, 58(1), 21–46.

Salhani, J. (2015, December 8). Trump’s Muslim Ban Is Exactly What ISIS Wants. Think Progress

Zaal, M. (2012). Islamophobia in Classrooms, Media, and Politics. Journal of     Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 55(6), 555-558. content/uploads/2012/03/muslim-prayer-1.jpg

Why the Deaths of Black Men and Boys Are Not Accounted For

As an African-American woman, who supports Black feminism, this topic is out of my usual comfort zone to talk about but it is an issue that needs to be brought to light. Black men and boys are now considered prey to our society, yet no one is doing anything about it.  There has been no in depth research or analysis on WHY this is happening, and the only answer that is given in response to their deaths is racism.  Well that answer does not suffice.  If it is racism, then why are Black males the ones being victimized the most?  And even if racism is the answer, there is nothing being done about it because America does not call it racism.  America justifies these deaths by saying that Blacks deserve death for the danger they pose to society and the phobia that has been created in the white imagination.

Black males fill the bottom of every measure of the American population’s prosperity and health, and even though this is the case, because they are men, they are seen as having gender-based benefits. The fear of researchers and scholars in studying the misfortunes of Black males in society is rooted from the “danger” that it might reinforce gender based hierarchy and empowering men poses potential “dangers.”  Let me translate this into simpler terms:  White America will do anything to maintain its superiority over African Americans, and empowering Black men poses a threat to their domineering position.  Because there is such a division between those who are considered to be “more oppressed” it prevents the ability to do a serious study of the relationship between the historical and political causes of the violence against Black males.  Not addressing the deeper causes for the death of so many Black men means that we are also failing to address America’s seemingly endless killings of Black males.  This is something that should not be able to be so easily concentrated to acts of racism.

Protestors gather outside of the courthouse in Baltimore, Maryland November 30, 2015, on the first day of jury selection for Baltimore Police Officer William Porter who is  charged in connection with the death of Freddie Gray.    REUTERS/Bryan Woolston
Protestors gather outside of the courthouse in Baltimore, Maryland November 30, 2015, on the first day of jury selection for Baltimore Police Officer William Porter who is charged in connection with the death of Freddie Gray. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston

While Black men and boys continue dying because of state and white vigilantes, scholars are “highly encouraged” to refrain from theoretically accounting for these deaths through any sort of philosophical study. Why might you ask? Well, allow me to assist you in your thoughts… There is mass resistance from our universities and our scholars to consider Black male vulnerability beyond feminism or other stereotypes that link Black males to being culturally unstable and inherently violent.  Any study of Black male vulnerability is targeted as an act to erase Black female suffering.  THAT IS NOT THE CASE!  In studying Black male vulnerability, we are not erasing Black female suffering or anyone’s suffering.  If anything, this movement to understand why Black males are being murdered would help strengthen the foundations of Black feminist organizations or movements like #BlackLivesMatter.  Black males are disproportionately affected by violence, incarceration, poverty, unemployment, and suicide in America, yet we insist that the deaths of these Black men do not need to be accounted for.  It is this silence that ultimately takes advantage of the deaths that cause Black men to be underrepresented in our society.


Is the “negrophobia” that pushed white America to support lynchings as a form of murder is the same fear and anxiety that allows the white public to endorse the murder of Black men and boys as “justifiable homicides”? Police officers justify the killings of Black males by claiming that they were in “fear of their lives.”  America has created a system that justifies police violence, mass incarceration, and exclusion.  The concepts about Black masculinity is used to justify the murder of Black males in society and complicate the full picture of Black male oppression in America.  But where did this stigma or phobia come from and how did it obtain so much power? Well, often times, society imagine the Black boy, a child, to be physically threatening, and this idea is manifested through savagery inherent to Black stereotypes.  Black males have also been associated with animals (monkeys and apes) which diminishes any form of sympathy that was left for their humanity.  As a result of these characterizations, there is more acceptance of higher levels of violence directed towards them.


Ultimately, there is a clear connection between the deaths of Black males in society and the erasure of Black men from the realm of theory. The current theories in place that associate the death of Black males to the broad description of racism is a claim that in neither thoroughly research or analyzed.  Because of this, there is an inability to depict the particular kind of oppression and violence that defines Black male existence.  It is as if society classifies the deaths of Black males as being racist acts of violence and then finds ways to justify those acts and then move onto the next case.  Michael Brown was a victim and example of the power a white life has over Black male existence and is a clear demonstration of the seemingly abundant power of white individuals’ ability to enforce the anti-Black agreement against these particular Black males.  Black male death represents the fact that racism is the power whites have over the world which results in the insignificance of Black lives.  Black men are thought to simulate white patriarchy which is something that is unattainable because of Black male disadvantage, but one that is affirmed through society’s certainty in the decision that his death is the only way to fix the dangers he poses to society.  But these deaths honor the unfinished, perhaps unending, struggle to assert black humanity in a country built on its denial.




Butler, P. (2013). Black Male Exceptionalism: The Problems and Potential of Black Male Focused Interventions . Dubois Review.

Goff, P. (2008). Not Yet Human: implicit knowledge, Historical dehumanization, adn contemporary consequences. journal of personality and social psychology, 292-306.

Goff, P. (2014). The essence of innocence: consequences of dehumanizing black children. journal of personality and social psychology, 526-545, 540.

Hutchinson, D. (2010). Identity Crisis:Intersectionality, Multidimensionality, and the Development of an Adequate Theory of Subordination. Michigan Journal of Race and Law.

McDaniel, A. (2011). The Black Gender Gap in Educational Attainment: Historical Trends and Racial Comparisons. Demography.

Wynter, S. (2006). Interview in Proudflesh. Proudflesh: New Afrikan Journal of Culture, Politics & Consciousness.



Mental Health Concerns in the Administration of Criminal Justice

mental health img

The issue of mental health in our criminal justice system is severely under-represented. We have individuals both taking advantage of and getting lost in the system which gives neither the help they need. The issue of misdiagnosing is where the problem begins; we lack the research we need to complement the diagnosing methods of physicians. Stigma concerning individuals with intellectual disabilities, especially offenders, is also causing conflict in putting them through the system. Minority standing is, of course, the underlying factor in all of this, considering the majority of individuals with mental disabilities in the criminal justice system are part of a minority group.

The plea of temporary insanity (if successful) can prove little to no consequences from the criminal justice system, yet rarely is it truly insanity that drives these offenders to offend. People that are part of the majority, wealthy and white that have the resources to put together a team of excellent lawyers are more likely to use this defence than those that are obviously actually psychotic. The problem with this is it leaves criminals who only claimed insanity, out of the streets to re-offend. Many legitimate psychotic individuals do not even know what is best for them, yet they still have to decide their own fate and many refuse to allow their lawyer to mount an insanity case for them. As a result, they get stuck in the system without proper services to give them the assistance they need that would be provided in mental health facilities. This is one of the many issues with pleas such as these; the wrong people use them and the right people don’t know how to use them and aren’t receiving aid on their behalf.



The stigma we place upon individuals with mental disorders leads many people to brush them under the rug so to speak, because what can they contribute to society? What will it hurt me to accidently put them in jail instead of a mental health facility? It hurts them, it hurts their families and it hurts the community around them when mentally disabled offenders don’t get the treatment they need to not offend again. Jail is not the equivalent of therapy or medication, which is the only thing proven to keep these offenders from re-offending.


In order to stop this problem we need to conduct more research, continue to make better and more assistance programs available to minority groups and change the way people with mental disabilities are tried. Research will make diagnosing more accurate and valid, programs will prevent minorities from ending up in the criminal justice system to begin with and could also contribute to getting rid of prejudicial bias within the system. Changing the way people with Intellectual disabilities are tried is the most important way to stop them from being improperly put in the general jail population. If they cannot make proper judgements they should not and can not make proper decisions on these judgements and should not be forced to.

To close, here are a few last words about mental illness:

1. So how do we fix this problem besides more research and better methods for diagnosis?

2. How much of a factor is race, sex and/or social status in deciding where/how an offender is sentenced?

3. Do you know someone with a mental disability who has had to go through the criminal justice system? How did it work out for them?




Public Perceptions of Police Brutality in Post-Slavery America

On the surface, incidences of police brutality may appear to be nothing more than trigger-happy and power hungry cops who give a bad reputation to an otherwise ethical and moral police force. In many respects, this statement is true. A few rotten apples often affect attitudes towards the entire barrel, yet many police officers care about their communities, want to do some good in those communities, and hold human life to the utmost importance. It is important to recognize, however, the racist and discriminatory tendencies riddled throughout the criminal justice system and substantiated in our law enforcement across the nation. Such tendencies are embedded in the United States from a long history of genocide, enslavement, and segregation committed by our ancestors and still felt to this day by those it affected. Racism, prejudice, and discrimination is still alive and well in a nation where we would love to forget about it. Unfortunately for them, it is perpetuated every day from media outlets portraying stereotypes of minorities, to our court system where minorities face discrimination at nearly every level of the court process including the prosecutor’s decision whether to charge and the sentence issued by the judge. The severe beating of Rodney King in 1991 by police officers in LA and the resulting LA riots would set into a motion a series of events that brought race to the forefront of the conversation regarding police brutality and misuse of force.


Police brutality is defined as using “excessive physical force or verbal assault” in the pursuance of a crime or the apprehension of an offender (1). Where deadly use of force crosses the line to police brutality is when the use of force exceeds that which is necessary to create a calm and safe environment. According to the Washington Post as of May 30th, 2015, there have been 385 fatal police shootings in so far in 2015 (2). Of those 385 victims, 27% were Black despite Blacks only representing around 14% of the total U.S. population (2). Whites, on the other hand, accounted for 46% of the victims while they represent around 63% of the total U.S. population (2). Blacks are, therefore, overrepresented as victims of fatal police shootings while Whites are underrepresented as victims of fatal police shootings. Furthermore, of the 62 victims who were unarmed when fatally shot, 66% of them were either Black or Hispanic (2). The more publicized incidences of police brutality and misuse of force have sparked a massive response from the public which has resulted in the formation of activist movements such as Black Lives Matter. These movements have made a huge impact on society’s understanding of why Blacks are disproportionately victimized by excessive use of force.

At the heart of the issue is underlying ideas of race including stereotypes we attribute to certain races that affect how we perceive the entirety of the group. Aggression and violence is typically applied to Blacks and is further perpetuated by media outlets such as music and television. Typical portrayals of African Americans as gangsters, drug dealers, and pimps as well as lyrics in rap and hip-hop music that promote violence contributes to society’s behaviors and attitudes towards Blacks. Such stereotypes culminate into the view of Blacks as the prototypical criminal (3). It is no wonder, then, that disproportionate numbers of Blacks are fatally shot by police as there is a greater perceived imminent threat regardless of whether they are armed with a weapon or not. Furthermore, the concept of “negro-phobia” is used to describe the fear of Blacks, specifically the fear of being victimized by Blacks (3). Tamir Rice serves as a prime example of negro-phobia.

Warning: May be graphic for some viewers.

  • How does the Cleveland Police Department’s response to Tamir Rice after the 9-1-1 call reflect ideas of negro-phobia? Do you believe they were justified in their use of force? How could they have handled the situation differently, if at all, to avoid fatally shooting Tamir Rice?
  • Where did these stereotypes of Blacks come from? Where did they originate from in United States history?

Several theories are utilized to explain perceptions of race and police brutality. Social Dominance Theory posits that Whites are the dominant group and, therefore, do not consider police brutality as serious when it disproportionately affects subordinate groups such as Blacks and Hispanics. Whites, then, tend to justify excessive use of force against Blacks, stating that they deserve harsh treatment because they shouldn’t resist arrest, shouldn’t wear “thug” or “gangster” clothes, and shouldn’t partake in drugs. Studies have reflected this theory, as 38% of Whites and 89% of Blacks view the criminal justice system as biased against Blacks, whereas 8% of Blacks and 56% of Whites saw the criminal justice system as treating Blacks fairly. What results is rewards such as promotions, rather than punishments, being given to police officers who commit these acts. Police officers are also exceedingly found not guilty of their charges if taken to court and acquitted with little to no hesitance despite strong evidence such as camcorder footage, witness testimony, and expert analysis being present. Eric Garner’s case involves the acquittal of a police officer charged with the murder of Garner despite overwhelming evidence at odds with the acquittal.

Warning: May be graphic for some viewers (fast-forward to 4:32 to arrive at the onset of the altercation although commentary at the beginning is important).

  • Should Pantaleo, the NYPD police officer who applied the rear naked chokehold, have been found guilty? If so, what charge would you have given to him and why? If not, why do you believe it was the right decision for Pantaleo to be acquitted?

Social Impact Theory, on the other hand, studies situational factors that can augment attitudes towards misuse of force. Specifically, the number of shots fired and the number of officers present are tested to see if they have a positive or negative effect on perceptions of excessive use of force. Results showed that as the number of officers decreased and the number of shots increased, perceptions of excessive use of force were augmented (3) The Amadou Diallo and Michael Brown shootings are cases in which a high number of shots were fired with relatively few officers present at the crime scene.

  • Which theory do you believe affects society’s perceptions of police brutality the most? What other theories/factors play a role?

As mentioned previously, not all police officers are bad and a very small portion of police officers are making headlines for excessive use of force. Law enforcement should be commended for their duty to protect and serve their communities in an ethical and moral manner. Racism and discrimination embedded in the criminal justice system, however, should not be ignored and thought of as nonexistent.


(1) Chaney, C., & Robertson, R. V. (2013). “Racism and Police Brutality in America.” Journal of African American Studies. 17(3): 480-505. Online.

(2) Kindy, K. (2015). “Fatal police shootings in 2015 approaching 400 nationwide.” Washington Post. Online.

(3) Perkins, J. E., & Bourgeois, M. J. (2006). “Perceptions of Police Use of Deadly Force.” Journal of Applied Social Psychology. 36(1):161-177. Online.

Racial Disparity in Juvenile Justice


Inequality in the juvenile justice system is a problem that is starting to be noticed. The unfair treatment and harsh punishments of minorities has grown more and more as juveniles are being sentenced. You see the most racial disparity when it comes giving juvenile life without parole. The chance of a minority receiving juvenile life without parole is way more likely than the chance of a white youth to get juvenile life without parole. Majority of the time white youths commit the same the crimes but do not receive as harsh sentences a minority youths. There one was one statistic that really stood out to me between the racial disparities of white youth compared to youths of color. “The proportion of African Americans serving JLWOP sentences for the killing of a white person (43.4%) is nearly twice the rate at which African American juveniles are arrested for taking a white person’s life (23.2%). Conversely, white juvenile offenders with black victims are only about half as likely (3.6%) to receive a JLWOP sentence as their proportion of arrests for killing blacks (6.4%).” If it is the same crime the difference between who receives juvenile life should not be so far apart as it is. White youths should not have that much as an advantage when the courts decides what to sentence someone. Murder is not the only statistic where white youths don’t get punished with harsh sentences. Many of the individuals who receive juvenile life without parole for committing non-violent crimes are still at more of a disadvantage than white youths who commit the same crimes.
CRMJ (2)

Youths of color continue to simply be charge life without parole than white youths for non-violent crimes and murder crimes with no explanation it just remains to seem as racial injustice. Majority of these charges happen while individuals are still juveniles. Most of the non-violent offenses should not charge juveniles with life should be more understandable and consider that the delinquents are still young and should still serve time but not life without parole in which seems to happen with white youths. As I was doing this research I was shocked about the racial disparity in the juvenile justice system you don’t really here about a lot of this information. Many of people here about the injustice that happens in the adult court system and how there is a high number of minorities that are incarcerated and populate most of the adult correctional facilities throughout the United States. In our society the injustice in the juvenile justice system needs to be more aware to our society because most of the inmates that are incarcerated in the adult system start their life sentences in juvenile correctional facilities then are transferred to adult system. In the juvenile system juveniles should not continue to receive life without parole sentences especially for non- violent crimes. Juvenile still have the chance to turn their life around from mistakes that were made at such a young age. Many juvenile transform and become better people while going through correctional facilities. Juvenile justice system should focus more on rehabilitation instead of giving life without parole.

Questions: Should the Juvenile justice system still be allowed to crime Juveniles life without parole sentences?

What are some of the reason why prosecutors continue to give minorities harsher sentences that white youth for similar crimes?

Bilchik, S. (1999). Minorities in the Juvenile Justice System. U.S. Department of Justice. Retrieved December 15, 2015, from

Nellis, A. (2012). The Lives of Juvenile Lifers. The Sentencing Project. Retrieved December 15, 2015, from

Thornberry, T. (n.d.). Race, Socioeconomic Status and Sentencing in the Juvenile Justice System. The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology (1973-), 64(1), 90-90. Retrieved December 16, 2015, from

Turner, J., & Dakwar, J. (2014). Hearing on Reports of Racism in the Justice System of the United States. American Civil Liberties Union. Retrieved December 16, 2015, from


Final Blog post how race and social class tie into mandatory minimum setencing


Mandatory minimum sentence is a Crisis that has and is affecting a large amount of people. Mandatory minimum sentencing laws set minimum sentences for offenders to serve regardless of the circumstances giving judges no discretion or leniency to lower the sentence. Majority of the mandatory minimum sentences apply to manufacturing, distribution, or possession with intent to distribute of drugs as well as for various other charges. A very well known form of mandatory minimum sentencing comes from the three strikes law.Similarly to mandatory minimum sentencing, sadly the judge is not allowed to shorten the sentence no matter how small the third crime is with the three strike law.

The main reason why mandatory minimum came into existence was due to the War on Drugs occurring in the 70’s and 80’s. A swarm of drug presence came to the U.S. after events like Woodstock in the 1960’s and when soldiers returned home from Vietnam addicted to heroin and various other drugs. This caused President Nixon to launch a campaign dedicated to the use of illicit drugs. This all resulted in the passage of sentencing reform act of 1984 that ultimately led to the sentencing commission being created to set sentencing guidelines. The intentions of the commission were good but they did not take into consideration what would work best for crime control and the offenders circumstances.


In 2011 Hispanic accounted for 38.3% of offenders convicted with a mandatory minimum sentence, African Americans had 31.5%, Whites had 27.4%, and other races composed of 2.7%. Mandatory minimum had a large amount of disparities for it’s sentencing. For example, the disparity between crack and powder cocaine was at 1-100 ratio. People of color particularly African Americans and people from the lower class were the individuals purchasing crack because it was cheap while primarily white and upper class were purchasing powder cocaine which was the same thing but not condensed. With this being said, lower class and people of color occupied majority of prison institutions due to these reasons.

A few questions that came to mind while doing research on mandatory minimum sentence were, what is a better method of deterrence compared to mandatory minimum sentencing? Was mandatory minimum sentencing was made to help the society or to hurt it? Should judges have more input to cases regarding mandatory minimum? What adjustments could have been made to the mandatory minimum law to have made it successful as time progressed. And should rehabilitation be the primary focus for drug offenders rather than retributive punishment?

In conclusion, whether or not mandatory minimum sentencing law is effective or not is an ongoing debate with supportive and opposing feeling towards it. In my opinion the focus should be put more so towards violent offenders that actual pose a threat to society rather than drug dealers and users who need treatment rather than hard prison time. It is sad that in today’s day and time more money goes into the prison institution rather than the education system. If the money used to fund prisons was put towards schools and making them a place for all people then perhaps more people would not resort to selling and using drugs and could potentially use the school as a resource from staying out of trouble.


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If you could reduce the number of future prisoners, would you?

In the few weeks that we have been in this class I can recall three incidents that have come to my attention involving K-12 students and law enforcement. Ahmed Mohamed was arrested for making a clock, essentially the 14 year old was too intelligent for his own good? After that incident, video of 16 year old Emilio Mayfield  being slammed to the ground by police officers after being struck in the face for jaywalking to catch the bus surfaced. In more recent news we have the student in South Carolina who was flipped out of her desk and thrown across the room by Deputy Ben Fields, who was called in after the student was identified as being disruptive to the class.

I understand that these are all very different circumstances but at the end of the day we have three teenagers having experienced unnecessary trauma of being handcuffed and hauled to a police station with fear and questions of self worth running through their heads. What does it say when you have been conditioned to believe that bad people, criminals, are the ones who get handcuffed and you are the one sitting in the back of a police car after being in a classroom?

These incidents help visualize our far too intimate relationship between institutions of education and institutions of incarceration:

Heightened after fear of school shootings we have 82,000 school resource officers and security guards working in public schools (Brown). Not to say that the safety of students and staff should not be a priority, but what does it say when the students safety is put in jeopardy by the person who is their to protect them? Certain student and law enforcement encounters question the priority:

How do we justify a 5 year old with ADHD getting handcuffed with zip ties on his hands and feet, forced to go to the hospital for a psychiatric evaluation and being charged with battery on a police officer (Snyder)?

In the end the mother of 5 year old Michael Davis points out that rather than an apology she wishes her son had the proper education catering to Michael’s learning disabilities, the school didn’t offer behavioral services to Michael or his mother, because it would cost the district money.



Education vs Prison Costs

Data from 40 states depict how much government money is spent per year to educate an elementary/secondary school student compared to the cost of keeping an inmate imprisoned.
Data from 40 states depict how much government money is spent per year to educate an elementary/secondary school student compared to the cost of keeping an inmate imprisoned.



  1. After learning the mechanics of the school system feeding into the prison system, do you have an issue with more money being spent on prisoners than students?
  2. In this instance if we address the needs of the students, we would diminish the needs for prisoners by keeping them from becoming prisoners, so why don’t we prioritize education?
  3. Living in a time fearful of school shootings it seems as though police officers will not be leaving the classroom anytime soon. Does this leave us with a new field of criminal justice? Intro to policing K-12? Who takes on this responsibility, the college level, individual police departments, the school?





“American Kids & The School-To-Prison Pipeline.” YouTube. Ed. AJ+. YouTube, 18 May 2015. Web. 11 Nov. 2015.

Brown, Emma. “Police in Schools: Keeping Kids Safe, or Arresting Them for No Good Reason?” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 8 Nov. 2015. Web.

School to Prison Graphic (I):

School to Prison Illustration (II):

Snyder, Michael. “19 Crazy Things That School Children Are Being Arrested For In America.” End Of The American Dream. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Jan. 2012.

“Stuck In The School-To-Prison Pipeline.” YouTube. Ed. AJ+. YouTube, 20 May 2015. Web. 11 Nov. 2015.

“Taking Back Our Schools: Organizing to Stop the School-to-Prison Pipeline.” YouTube. Ed. Advancement Project. YouTube, 23 July 2013. Web. 11 Nov. 2015.

Yellin, Tal. Education vs Prison Costs. 2013. CNNMoney, n.p.

Police Shootings: What’s Our Current Rating?

Towards the end of 2014 and beginning months of 2015 it seemed as if police shootings were starting to become a more frequent occurrence. For several months, it was a consistency across all media sources, story after story. Currently, as of November 4th, (around 10 am), 829 people have been shot dead by police here in the United States, just this year alone.


With extremely advanced media technology today, these events have erupted across media sources in a matter of minutes. According to what gets placed into the news, it seems as if blacks are seen as the main targets for police shootings, seeing as it gets more attention. Surprisingly, that is not the scenario. Compared to blacks, whites are more likely to be killed by the police. Approximately, 48% (398) of those killed by police in 2015 have been a white person, whereas 25% (211) have been a black person. In comparison to states so far California (150) has the highest number of deaths on civilians caused by police. Here in the state of Washington 14 have been killed by police. To one’s surprise there are two states in the United States which have no record of a police officer killing a civilian (Washington Post, 2015).

(England and Wales police shootings from 2005-2014)

Compared to other countries, the United States statistically rates enormously higher than the rest in the number of deaths caused by police. Police in the United States are taught to shoot center mass, whereas European countries police are taught to aim for the knee caps or shoot at the suspects’ feet; essentially wound and not kill the suspect. Also, some European countries do not allow for police to carry a gun. Without a doubt police work is a highly stressful profession, so not having some source of protection in a heated confrontation would be an uneasy scenario. So if some countries have been successful with this method, why is the United States not? As of June of 2015, England and Wales have had “55 fatal police shootings in 24 years, whereas in 24 days (from January 1- January 24, 2015), there have been 59 fatal police shootings in the United States” (Lartey, 2015). In some cases, the United States has had thousands of individuals killed by police, whereas some countries have only recorded a handful of deaths over fifty plus years. Another prime example is, here in the United States there has been over eight-hundred deaths of a civilian by police in just a little over ten months, whereas in the United Kingdom (England and Wales) has only recorded two deaths the entire year thus far. Just five months into 2015, in Stockton, California, “three people were fatally shot by police, however over 71 years Iceland has only recorded one” (Lartey, 2015).



  1. Do you think police shootings have risen over the past year or two?
  2. Why does it seem like police shootings have become a major issue in recent events? Could it be that once one shooting gets into the news, then it seems like that is all the media wants to display or talk about?
  3. If the United States were to change their police tactics to those like other countries (not aiming center mass for example), do you think the number of people killed by police would decrease?
  4. If police work is an extremely stressful profession, how is it that other countries are able to have such lower police cause deaths compared to the United States? Could it be a population differential? Could it be the militarization training and mentality of “shoot to kill?”



Washington Post (2015). Retrieved: (November 3, 2015).

Jamiles Lartey. (June 9, 2015). “By the numbers: US police kill more in days than other countries do in years.” The Guardian.  Retrieved: November 3, 2015.

Images: (graph)

The Rich White Man’s Burden: House Arrest In a Mansion

Many people know Oscar Pistorius as the first double leg amputee to perform at the Olympics. However, on February 14, 2013, Pistorius fatally shot his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, in the bathroom of his estate in Pretoria, South Africa. There has been some controversy over whether Pistorius knew that Steenkamp was in the bathroom, which determines whether this was pre-meditated murder (after a domestic dispute on Valentine’s Day) or if he truly thought that there was an intruder in the house; the location where Steenkamp was sitting/standing/crouching in the bathroom; and whether he took the time to put his prosthetics on or if he was just on his “stumps.” The entirety of the facts of this case will probably never be known, because this all happened in the privacy of his own home.

(Source: "Paranoid Parrot Oscar Pistorius Meme")
(Source: “Paranoid Parrot Oscar Pistorius Meme”)











During the trial, Oscar Pistorius showed a lot of emotion, including crying, or more like sobbing, as well as puking when he saw a picture of Steenkamp’s remains. However, he also seemed very confident that he would be released and be back on the track shortly.

Q: Were the emotions that Pistorius showed helpful or hurtful in his trial? Was he able to cry because he is an athlete who is confident in his masculinity? Was the perception of his masculinity, or lack thereof, misconstrued by him crying? Did his emotions thwart the outcome of his trial?

This case is very similar to the OJ Simpson case. Both OJ Simpson and Oscar Pistorius were athletes and were both accused of murdering their significant others. Being athletes, they are famous around the world and are also of a higher socioeconomic status. They are also more confident individuals in that they play sports at a highly competitive level. Therefore, they can be seen as dominant to their female significant others, especially with the use of a weapon.

Q: Which social construct is most important in this case: socioeconomic status, race, sexual orientation, or gender, or do all of them work together?

(Source: Times Live "Pistorius Roses are Red Meme")
(Source: Times Live “Pistorius Roses are Red Meme”)

After 49 days in trial over a course of seven months, Oscar Pistorius was charged with culpable homicide. Culpable homicide is a lesser sentence than pre-meditated murder in South Africa, which is the rough equivalent of involuntary manslaughter in Anglo-American law, or the unlawful negligent killing of a human being.

Q: Do you think that Oscar Pistorius was charged with culpable homicide because of the fact that he was a well-known athlete? If he was an average human being, do you think that he would have received the same punishment?

Although he was sentenced to five years in prison, since both of his legs are amputated, he is expected to be staying in the hospital wing of the prison while he is in prison, away from most of the other prisoners. South Africa also has a law stating that for sentences of five years or less, you only have to be in prison for one-sixth of the time that you are sentenced; in his case, he is required to stay in prison for 10 months out of the five years that he was sentenced and then he can petition for house arrest for the remainder of the sentence. He was sentenced on October 21, 2014 and released on October 19, 2015 after spending just less than one year in prison and will now spend the next four years on house arrest at his uncle’s mansion (pictured below).

(Source: The Telegraph, 2015, "Oscar Pistorius will live in luxury after his release under house arrest")
(Source: The Telegraph, 2015, “Oscar Pistorius will live in luxury after his release under house arrest”)

I chose to discuss Oscar Pistorius’ murder case, because he was just released from prison last week and is now on house arrest. Also, this case encompasses race, class, gender, and privacy. Steenkamp is a victim of homicide as a result of her being in a heterosexual relationship with Pistorius. Regardless of whether the act was purposeful or accidental, Steenkamp would not have died that night if she was not in a relationship with Pistorius. Although Steenkamp was a white victim, Pistorius, as a white man, did not receive as harsh of a sentence, in my opinion, as a black man would have received. However, Pistorius’ fame and social class also contributed to the lenient sentencing. A person living in a poverty also would not have received the same sentencing as Pistorius had. Finally, the fact that Pistorius did this in his own home and that there were no reliable witnesses, also contributed to this being sort of up in the air, not knowing the whole truth about the sequence of events that happened that night.

Q: Do you think that Pistorius’ lessened sentence (culpable homicide vs. murder) as well as the fact that he was released from prison to be sentenced to house arrest in a mansion devalues the life of Reeva Steenkamp? Should Pistorius be required to compensate the Steenkamp family for what he did?



(2015). Q&A: What House Arrest Means For Oscar Pistorius. Sky News. Retrieved from

(2014). Oscar Pistorius Trial: Evidence. BBC News. Retrieved from

Phipps, C. (2014). Oscar Pistorius Trial: The Full Story, Day By Day. The Guardian. Retrieved from