Racism and the Criminal Justice System
Glance at the news or scroll through your Twitter feed and you're likely to encounter stories about racism in the criminal justice system. The media has largely focused on the Black and Brown victims of fatal police shootings; names such as Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Korryn Gaines, and Mike Brown. Sociologists and criminologists have also devoted an enormous amount of attention to police violence. For instance, one recent study demonstrates that Black males are 21 times more likely than white males to be killed by police, and high-income Blacks were just as likely as low-income Blacks to be killed. However, there is more to this problem than police violence. In order to examine racism in the U.S. criminal justice system one must also devote attention to the implicit biases of various other powerful actors, the way sentences are handed down by the courts, and the problem of mass incarceration. This module explores the history of racial inequality in the criminal justice system and attempts to identify some of the mechanisms that uphold and perpetuate that inequality.
Killing with Impunity: A Discussion with Sociologist Rashawn Ray
In this podcast Lester Andrist interviews Rashawn Ray, Ph.D, for a discussion about what makes police violence institutional, what institutional racism looks like, and what can be done about it.
Angela Davis (1944) emerged as a nationally prominent activist in the 1960′s and as a leader in the push for civil rights. The problem of mass incarceration, which has disproportionately affected Black Americans has been among her enduring interests. She is a retired professor with the History of Consciousness Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz and the founder of Critical Resistance, which is an organization aiming to abolish the prison-industrial complex altogether. Critical Resistance challenges the belief that caging and controlling people makes communities safe.
White Terror in the Era of Covert Racism
In this essay, sociologist Lester Andrist argues that the violence against Black Americans is not new; it is however more visible.
"…the refusal and failure to recognize the dignity and humanity of all people has formed the sturdy foundation of every caste system that has ever existed in the United States or anywhere else. Our task is to end not just mass incarceration, but the history and cycle of caste in America."
~ Michelle Alexander
Michelle Alexander (1967) is an associate professor of law at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. She is perhaps best known for her 2010 book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, where she examines the causes and consequences of the mass incarceration of African American men. Alexander argues that despite the achievements of the Civil Rights Era, systemic racial discrimination in the United States has resumed due in large part to the policies associated with the U.S. War on Drugs. Click here to see a video summary of her book.
Broken Windows, Broken People
In this exquisitely illustrated presentation, journalist and artist Molly Crabapple examines the origins of the broken windows theory, the kind of policing it led to, and its connection to the deaths of people like Eric Garner and Akai Gurley.
Racism in the CJS in Pictures
Check out this curated Pinterest board for graphs and images related to racism in the criminal justice system. Peruse these pins to find recent data on racial inequality in the CJS, or use them to spice up dull lecture slides and inspire conversation. See more here.
Criminalizing "Driving while Black"
Sociologist Valerie Chepp explores what the romantic comedy "Bridesmaids" reveals about deeply held associations between blackness and criminality. See the clip and analysis here.
The Sociological Cinema offers even more resources related to the racism in the criminal justice system here.