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Law and Justice in Real Time Social Class 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.



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?




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.

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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The Increasing Militarization of America’s Police Forces: Form of Oppression or a Protection for Society?

In the year 1997, two heavily armed men entered a Southern California bank and began their reign of terror. Armed with automatic weapons, body armor, and ski masks, the two individuals forced their way into the bank and created a chaotic scene in order to get their money. As Los Angeles Police Officers responded, many of them were outgunned as they didn’t have the proper resistance (weaponry) to take on the suspects at large and protect the civilians around them (Orlov, 2012). With responding patrol officers only armed with semi-automatic rifles and 12 gauge shotguns, they were for a long time losing the battle that ended in dozens of officers and civilians injured. From this day that put all of North Hollywood, California in panic mode, police departments started providing semi-automatic rifles (M-16’s) to patrol officers, as well as increasing their use of Special Weapons and Tactics Teams (SWAT) (Orlov, 2012). This sense of ramping up increases in military like models has somewhat divided the country regarding whether to militarize our nations police forces or to demilitarize them. Some argue that equipping police across the country with military graded equipment leads to a totalitarian state with too much power and control of the government/ authorities, while others argue that equipping our police force with whatever they need is essential for the safety and protection of our communities; especially faced with an ever changing threat from those who wish to cause harm to civilians. Despite the appropriate increase of militarization to the combat criminals who pose as lot of risk, paramilitary group been seen to cause a lot of harm with their aggressive tactics; often leading to frustration within the community they are meant to serve. Thus, the militarization of police should not be used immediately, but rather only be used in dire situations.

Ever since the Drug War era and the War on Terror, America’s law enforcement agencies have ramped up militaristic approaches and have led to a warrior ethos philosophy for officers. With a moral panic spreading across cities looking to put a stop to the selling and use of illicit drugs, the government stepped up its funding towards law enforcement hoping to create a deterrence. With many of these law enforcement agencies stepping up its presence in communities across the country, they created more specialized units; trained to handle the problems with strict guidelines of power and enforcement. The Drug Enforcement Agency and many other federal and local agencies put more funding and focus towards units that would rely on a forceful tactic of element and surprise to counter-act crimes (mostly dealing with drug offenses). These specialized unites (SWAT) would often force their way into homes (with body armor, assault rifles, flash-bangs, and a determined mindset to ravage these houses) of suspected drug users and dealers. More communities across the country (mostly poor minority communities) are experiencing heavily armed SWAT teams raiding people’s homes in the middle of the night, often just to search for drugs (ACLU). These police officer’s mindsets of a warrior mentality are often linked with the governments philosophy of “tough on crime.” However, for a lot of these cases the offender didn’t even present a violent offense. Last year (nationwide) police arrested 1.6 million nonviolent drug offenders (Stamper, 2011).  Some of these non-violent drug offenders were taken into custody from SWAT teams assaulting their homes. The mere fact that these people presented no danger (based on intelligence gathering) make these dramatic invasions of the home unnecessary, as well as creates a traumatic experience for the people inside. In very shocking cases of SWAT team raids gone wrong, communities see that wrong houses are hit, as well as innocent people and family pets are shot and killed by the police raiding the homes. (Stamper, 2015). Problems like these where you have non violent offenders facing up against heavily armed men breaking down their doors, along with innocent people/pets getting killed creates an image of a public-safety institution (the authorities/police) at war with it’s own people.

The year 1997 also brought along an updated program, known as the 1033 program (created under the National Defense Authorization Act). This program essentially allowed for the United States Department of Defense to transfer military-grade gear to civilian law enforcement agencies across the country because of the Iraq and Afghanistan war winding down. Through this program, agencies (including ferguson-area authorities) were able to acquire heavy body armor, semi-automatic rifles, armored vehicles (MRAPS and BearCats), grenade launchers, riot gear, tear gas, wet weather gear, and blankets (Fox & Cook, 2014). Through this increase in military style equipment, law enforcement agencies starting using them on a daily basis in order to maintain law and order on city streets. Even though officers use a lot of the equipment for their own safety (officer safety), they have been seen to use it incorrectly and inappropriately. As the Ferguson events were unfolding, the whole area had been on high alert which prompted authorities to shown in force. However, the only problem was many of the protests at the beginning were peaceful and really only needed a uniformed police presence (without the military gear and warrior mindset) to monitor their constitutional rights of free speech, as well as the right to assemble peacefully. After this chaotic scene of what seemed like the people vs. the police, the Department of Justice released their report on the Ferguson Police Department. The DOJ expressed that the police agency had handled the situation in the wrong manner (Reilly, 2015). They described that scene where police snipers were on top of armored vehicles, pointing their weapons at the crowds of peaceful protesters (Reilly, 2015). Many in the community saw these officers as attempting to intimidate and threaten the public they are meant to serve (Reilly, 2015). It’s very hard to understand that the men and women who swore to protect and serve are the same one’s seen on images and video’s already in confrontational tactical positions, as if they are ready to strike protesters (who want to freely express their opinions so that society can advance) at a moments notice. Police are meant to diffuse situations and have taken on the role of solving problems that get in the way of peace. However, recently in our history we have seen those in police uniforms escalating confrontations with their equipment, tactics, and demeanor (Baker, 2011). By playing the role of a warrior in the streets, it really hinders the chance to build ties with the communities they are meant to serve.

America’s law enforcement agencies have such an essential role in protecting and serving the people of the United States. Along with their role of making sure communities feel safe, they are also meant to facilitate protesters who have the right to the freedom of speech, and to assemble peacefully (Library of Congress). However, recently we have seen an increase of the militarization of our police departments, that have infringed people’s rights and civil liberties (especially those who are protesting). When you have peaceful protesters lined up, the officers job should be to dress in non-riot gear, but should instead have it in their cars on hand (in case things get out of hand and escalate). The image of officers lined up in heavy gear with assault rifles presents an extreme intimidation (especially to the majority of protesters who are there peacefully) and causes an escalation of the protests to become violent. Even though officers claim that the paramilitary style tactics and military model help with deterrence and officer safety, it doesn’t help with building community ties; especially when those paramilitary groups seem to be up against the majority of the community. This is not to say that we shouldn’t have paramilitary groups (heavily armed officers) since those special units are needed for emergencies. The men and women who are placed into these specialized groups should be trained well to balance stability and order, along with respecting the rights of individuals. These paramilitary groups should be used as the last resort (when situations escalate) so that the community knows police diplomacy was tried; but failed.

  1. At what point in situations do police need to resort to militaristic approaches? Should tear gas and rubber bullets be used to disperse crowds?
  2. From the events of Ferguson, do you think the police in the area infringed upon the masses civil liberties and constitutional rights?
  3. How does a police officer balance officer safety while not infringing upon individual’s civil liberties and individual’s rights?
  4. At what point does an assembly of protesters become unlawful? Do police departments have too much discretion at declaring an unlawful assembly?
  5. Do you think the police are seen as more of oppressors or people looking out for public safety?
  6. After thinking about Ferguson, Occupy Wall Street, and other movements, should police departments keep military gear/ vehicles on hand? Should this military gear be made visible to act as a deterrent to those wanting to cause harm? Do you think we should have the 1033 program still in place (considering police agencies get the proper training)?
  7. Do you think America’s police force (local, state, and federal) has the most militaristic approach towards crime compared to other countries?
  8. Do you think there is any situation where you believe the militarization of police should be used immediately; as an immediate force of action (EX- Martial Law)?


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


Social Class and the European Migrant Crisis

I wanted to tie my blog post into the international realm and take a look at class, criminal justice systems, and how we are reacting. The current migrant crisis that Europe is facing right now seems like the best place to start with that. This won’t be about just the criminal justice system for the countries involved. We’ll be speaking about what laws are at the forefront of the discussion, yes, but we’ll also be taking a look at topics more broad in scope. To start, here are a couple great articles that can bring you up to speed. I’m sure most readers are fairly up to date on this so feel free to skim the articles but pay attention to the various pictures and infographics throughout.


First, this top notch article from the BBC that does a great job using pictures to help you understand as well as outlining some potential solutions.

Second we have this New York Times article that talks about some hold-ups migrants are facing.


After reading (or skimming) those we should all be on the same page so lets delve into some major points and discuss the first major ‘law’. The BBC article mentions The Dublin Regulation. That’s a complex European Union Law that I’ll simplify here. Among it’s chief goals is to figure out what country is responsible for an asylum claim or in other words what country has to shelter migrants. The way this was working during the current crisis is most often the first EU country migrants reach receive the burden. This has placed enormous strain on countries like Hungary. I use the past tense because the Dublin Regulation has been suspended by countries like Germany and Hungary in direct response to this crisis. The Dublin Regulation is not strictly a Criminal Justice oriented law, however it does allow other member countries to transport migrants back to the country responsible for sheltering them. This crisis is pushing existing regulations to the breaking point.

The fact of the matter is that no existing laws are coping with this influx. The EU is scrambling to figure out a suitable course of action. Ideas range from using member country navies to cut off the sea routes and sealing the borders to taking a much more prominent role in ending the Syrian civil war to reaching out to the Gulf Arab Countries to aid in sheltering migrants. What the EU comes up with will likely have world altering effects. It’s worth staying up to date.

How does class play into this? I’ve got a great image to help answer that question. (Image Credit:


If those people seem familiar that’s because they likely are. If you didn’t recognize them right off the bat the people in that photo are high profile, some are even the leaders of countries. The attire of the people on the raft is in such contrast to the environment it’s comical. For me this really illustrates the class issue occurring. The migrants we are seeing are often in tattered clothes, bloodied, and have facial expression akin to despair. We don’t see the rich or elite fleeing in trucks, rafts, or various other means of transportation. Why? This photo brings me to the two questions (more like five) we should all be thinking about.

  1. Is class playing a role in this crisis? If yes, in what ways? If no, why not? Why don’t we see or hear about the elite dying as they flee?
  2. What are some ways the criminal justice system, and laws as a whole, could help ease the burden facing so many EU countries?

Finally, I’d like to leave you all with an image I think a lot of people have forgotten in the face of this crisis. (Image Credit:–g12atJpSWZ)



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