Unequal Justice

Series Titles • The History of Punishment and Imprisonment • Juveniles Growing Up in Prison • Political Prisoners • Prison Alternatives and Rehabilitation • Prison Conditions Around the World • The Treatment of Prisoners and Prison Conditions • The True Cost of Prisons • Unequal Justice • Women Incarcerated

Unequal Justice

By David Hunter Foreword by Larry E. Sullivan, PhD Associate Dean, John Jay College of Criminal Justice


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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Names: Hunter, David, 1974 June 16- author. Title: Unequal justice / by David Hunter ; foreword by Larry E. Sullivan,   PhD, Associate Dean, John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Other titles: Inequities of the justice system Description: Broomall, PA : Mason Crest, [2018] | Series: The prison system |   Includes index. Identifiers: LCCN 2016054114| ISBN 9781422237892 (hardback) | ISBN   9781422237816 (series) | ISBN 9781422280041 (ebook) Subjects: LCSH: Criminal justice, Administration of--United States--Juvenile   literature. | Discrimination in criminal justice administration--United   States--Juvenile literature. Classification: LCC HV9950 .H85 2018 | DDC 364.973--dc23

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Words to understand: These words with their easy-to-understand definitions will increase the reader’s understanding of the text while building vocabulary skills. Sidebars: This boxed material within the main text allows readers to build knowledge, gain insights, explore possibilities, and broaden their perspectives by weaving together additional information to provide realistic and holistic perspectives. Educational Videos: Readers can view videos by scanning our QR codes, providing them with additional educational content to supplement the text. Examples include news cover- age, moments in history, speeches, iconic sports moments and much more! Text-dependent Questions: These questions send the reader back to the text for more careful attention to the evidence presented there. Research projects: Readers are pointed toward areas of further inquiry connected to each chapter. Suggestions are provided for projects that encourage deeper research and analysis. Series glossary of key terms: This back-of-the-book glossary contains terminology used throughout this series. Words found here increase readers’ ability to read and comprehend higher-level books and articles in this field. Foreword by Larry E. Sullivan, PhD.......................................................... 6 1 Law and Order....................................................................... 9 2 Is Justice Truly (Color) Blind?..........................................19 3 The Cost of Justice.............................................................35 4 An Unfair System?..............................................................45 5 Political Inequities...............................................................55 6 The Injustice of Prison Life................................................65 7 Evolving Justice...................................................................71 Series Glossary...........................................................................................74 Further Resources......................................................................................77 Index...............................................................................................................78 About the Author, Series Consultant, and Picture Credits.............. 80

Foreword Prisons have a long history, one that began with the idea of evil, guilt, and atonement. In fact, the motto of one of the first prison reform organizations was “Sin no more.” Placing offenders in prison was, for most of the history of prison systems, a ritual for redemption through incarceration; hence the language of punishment takes on a very religious cast. The word penitentiary itself comes from the concept of penance, or self-punishment to make up for a past wrong. When we discuss prisons, we are dealing not only with the law, but with very strong emotions and reactions to acts that range fromminor crimes, or misdemeanors, to major crimes, or felonies, such as murder and rape. Prisons also reflect the level of the civilizing process throughwhich a culture travels, and it tells us much about how we treat our fellow human beings. The 19th-century Russian au- thor Fyodor Dostoyevsky, whowas a political prisoner, remarked, “The degree of civilization in a society can be measured by observing its prisoners.” Similarly, Winston Churchill, the British primeminister duringWorldWar II, said that the “treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of civilization of any country.” For much of the history of the American prison, we tried to rehabilitate or modify the criminal behavior of offenders through a variety of treatment programs. In the last quarter of the 20th century, politicians and citizens alike realized that this attempt had failed, and they began passing stricter laws, imprisoning people for longer terms, and building more prisons. This movement has taken a great toll on society. Beginning in the 1970s federal and state governments passed mandatory minimum sentencing laws, stricter habitual offender legislation, and other “tough on crime” laws that have led today to the incarceration in prisons and jails of approximately 2.3 million people, or an imprisonment rate of 720 per 100,000 people, the highest recorded level in the world. This has led to the overcrowding of prisons, worse living conditions, fewer educational programs, and severe budgetaryproblems. Imprisonment carries a significant social cost since it splits families and contributes to a cycle of crime, violence, drug addiction, and poverty. The Federal Sentencing ReformAct of 1984 created a grid of offenses and crime categories for sentencing that disallowedmitigating circumstances. This grid was meant to prevent disparate sentences for similar crimes. The governmentmade these guidelinesmandatory, thereby takingmost discretionary sentencing out of the hands of judges who previously could give a wider range of sentences, such as one year to life, and allow for some type of rehabilitation. The unintended consequences of this legislative reform in sentencing was the doubling of the number of incarcerated people in the United States. Combined with the harsh sentences on drug offenders, almost half of the prisoners in the federal system are narcotics offenders, both violent and nonviolent, traffickers and users. States followed suit in enacting the harsh guidelines of the federal government in sentencing patterns. “Life without parole” laws and the changes in parole and probation practices led to even more offenders behind bars. Following the increase in the number of incarcerated offenders, more and more prisons were built with the aid of federal funds and filled to the brim with both violent and nonviolent offenders. In addition,


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many states handed over penal custody to the new private for-profit prisons that stemmed from mass incarceration. In the 21st century officials, politicians, and the public began to realize that such drastic laws wrought much harm to society. With the spread of long-term imprisonment, those who had spent decades in prison were unemployable after release. Their criminal histories followed them and made it difficult if not impossible to find gainful employment. Therefore, they entered the criminal world continually and thus sped up the vicious cycle of crime- imprisonment-release-crime-punishment. America was reaching the tipping point; some- thing had to give. In response to this growing trend of harsh sentencing, for example, the Supreme Court led the way between 2005 and 2016 with decisions banning the death penalty for juveniles (Roper v. Simmons, U.S. 551 [2005]), life sentence without parole for juveniles not convicted of homicide (Graham v. Florida, 130 S. Ct. 2011 [2010]); and life without parole for juveniles (Miller v. Alabama and Jackson v. Hobbes 132 S. Ct. 2455 [2012] and Montgomery v. Louisiana 135 S.Ct. 1729 [2015]). Behavioral psychologists and other officials do not consider juveniles capable of making fully formed decisions, and the Supreme Court has recognized the devel- opmental differences that excuses full individual responsibility and applies to their actions the philosophic principle of just deserts.Many states (90 percent of prisoners are under state, not federal jurisdiction) are beginning to take action by reducing harshmandatory sentences for adults. Most states, for example, have gone toward the decriminalization or legalization of marijuana, with lighter penalties for possession of the drug. Sincemost prisoners in state institutions are violent, however, contemporary America is caught in a dilemma withwhich many academics and governmental policy makers are aggressively grappling. All these are reasons why this series on the prison system is extremely important for understanding the history and culture of the United States. Readers will learn all facets of punishment: its history; the attempts to rehabilitate offenders; the increasing number of women and juveniles inprison; the inequality of sentencing among the races; attempts to find alternatives to incarceration; the high cost, both economically andmorally, of imprisonment; and other equally important issues. These books teach us the importance of understanding that the prison system affects more people in the United States than any institution, other than our schools.

Larry E. Sullivan, PhD Associate Dean Chief Librarian John Jay College of Criminal Justice Professor of Criminal Justice Graduate School and University Center City University of New York


Unequal Justice

Law and Order

Words to Understand

It had long been true, and prisoners knew this better than anyone, that the poorer you were the more likely you were to end up in jail. This was not just because the poor committed more crimes. In fact, they did. The rich did not have to commit crimes to get what they wanted; the laws were on their side. But when the rich did commit crimes, they oftenwere not prosecuted, and if they were they could get out on bail, hire clever lawyers, get better treatment from judges. — H oward Z inn , A P eople ’ s H istory of the U nited S tates The Imperfect Pursuit of Justice In most cases in North America, judicial systems do quite well in fulfilling their purpose. That is to say, they are usually fair and accurate. Unfortunately, nobody is perfect, and human beings run all three components of the judicial system—law enforcement, the judiciary, and correctional services. Thus none of these components is perfect either. Sometimes, the very institutions we have in place to promote justice actually produce injustice. In this book, we look at some of the ways that inequities are caused in the justice system. Hopefully, by better understanding how these inequities are caused, we can explore better and more just alternatives. Choreographed: Planned out. DNA samples: Samples of the nucleic acid molecule that is a major component of the chromosomes, carries genetic information, and can be used to establish iden- tity when matched with evidence left at a crime scene. Gladiators: Professional fighters in ancient Rome who fought in an arena as public entertainment. Prosecuting: Representing the state or the people in a criminal trial.

Lady Justice—a Roman goddess—holds a balance and a sword, representing objectivity, balance in the system, and punishment in justice.


Unequal Justice

Despite how it is portrayed in movies and television shows, the life of a police officer can be dangerous at times and boring at others.


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Unequal Justice

The law has long fascinated people from many different walks of life on many different levels. The multitude of television shows made about the law, law enforcement, and judicial affairs makes this readily apparent. Most of these shows focus on the drama of the courtroom and on the stories of people whose lives have been changed in court. While some shows and films about the law are based on factual events, most are purely fictional, made solely for entertainment. Some people prefer a more academic approach to law on television, how- ever. Until recently, these people had to satisfy themselves with the occasional documentary exploring certain high-profile legal cases or examining some aspect of the judicial system itself. With the boom in cable television networks in the 1990s, however, this changed. Now, cable networks such as C-SPAN and legal-oriented shows like Nancy Grace thoroughly cover legislative and legal proceedings. Shows like Cops , The First 48 , Dateline , 48 Hours , The Jinx , Mak- ing a Murderer , and popular podcasts like Serial , True Murder , and Criminal provide people with an exciting glimpse into the work of police, detectives, and lawyers. Sowhat about the lawattracts somany people? Perhaps it is because, like a good novel, the pursuit of justice is filled with conflict and suspense. On the streets, po- lice officers chase down notorious felons and search for crucial pieces of evidence. Defense attorneys and prosecutors engage in carefully choreographed battles for justice—like gladiators who use words and evidence as their weapons—while the fate of the accused hangs in the balance. Reality versus TV In real life, police work is rarely so thrilling as portrayed on television, and legal proceedings are not so exciting as a hockey game or a tennis match. Instead of resembling a sporting event, the most dramatic court cases might play out more like a very slow chess match—the lawyers planning their questions, statements, and witnesses carefully over the course of many days or weeks. And that’s just the most dramatic cases. The majority of cases brought to court are resolved with little fanfare and a minimum of conflict. In fact, it’s probably a good thing that police officers aren’t chasing down crim- inals everyminute of their day. If they did, theywouldn’t have time for their other duties. In the same vein, it’s fortunate that court cases don’t resemble sporting events. Judges and juries are instructed to remain emotionally unattached to the cases they hear. This is to prevent people’s emotions fromclouding their judgment. It would be difficult to remain objective if cheerleaders and fans were in the court rooting for their favorite lawyer. But even if the reality is less exciting than the television shows, people are still drawn to shows about law because they have an innate desire to see the good guys win and the bad guys lose. When we watch a movie, we usually want to see the hero save the day. In fact, most movies end like that because


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movie producers know that people want a happy ending. Police work and court cases are not scripted or written out in advance the way movies are. Unfortunately, the good guys sometimes lose, and the bad guys sometimes win. When that happens in legal settings, it can create quite a controversy. Sometimes, the wrong people are arrested, while the true criminals go free. In courts, the innocent are sometimes wrongfully convicted or held responsible for a crime. Other times, people who are guilty of a crime are wrongfully ac- quitted, or declared not guilty. All of these are examples of inequities in the justice system. An inequity is something that is unfair or unjust. Another type of inequity in the courts might involve criminals who are punished far more severely than their actions dictate. The People Who Uphold the Law There is more than one group appointed to uphold the law. In this book we look at three of those groups: law enforcement, the judiciary system, and correc- tional services. Law enforcement includes the police and other agencies that work to ensure people are obeying the law. The judiciary system consists of the various courts that interpret the law and judge whether people are guilty or innocent of crimes. Correctional services are the institutions in which people convicted of crimes are punished and rehabilitated, or helped to become better citizens. Although shows such as Law & Order are fictional, many of them attempt to portray the legal systemaccurately. Clearly, these shows take some liberties for the sake of drama, because television viewers want to see an exciting show. However, many of these shows are thoroughly researched and written in conjunction with legal professionals who act as advisers to make the shows as realistic as possible. For this reason, Law & Order serves as a good example of how the justice system works. If you ever watch Law&Order, you will see that, in general, the police or some other law enforcement agency investigates a crime. Their duty in this regard is to try to collect as much evidence about a crime as they possibly can. This information may take the form of testimony from witnesses, fingerprints, DNA samples from hair or blood, security camera footage, or a host of other things that help to indicate who might have committed the crime. When the police have collected all the evidence they can find, they decide whether they want to charge a suspect with the crime. Many times, there is not enough evidence to charge someone with a crime. This is often the situation in cases of theft. For example, a person might not re- alize somebody has stolen his wallet until it is too late to determine who stole it. In these circumstances, the case is left open. If more information is later found pertaining to that case, the police can add the information to the file and continue their investigation.


Unequal Justice

Forensic evidence, such as fingerprints and DNA samples, have assisted law enforcement in finding the culprit who committed the crime. In other cases, forensic evidence has assisted in freeing the wrongfully convicted.


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