Racial Discrimination in the Criminal Justice System

Racial discrimination and segregation are still a problem for many people involved in the criminal justice system. Today many racial and ethnic minorities have a skeptical belief for law enforcement and the criminal justice system as a whole. In order not to allow increasing in violence, the criminal justice system shall work to establish partnerships and friendly relations with minority communities.

The criminal justice system and minorities do not work together in an effective way mostly because of fear they feel from both sides. On the one side, the criminal justice system may give badges to people who suddenly realize that they have a lot of power. Discrimination is still one of the main problems that affected modern society and human relations in different spheres. Discrimination traditionally has been defined as unjustified negative actions that deny “individuals or groups of people equality of treatment” (Allport 51 cited Johnson 1991, p. 27). Members of different groups traditionally have been underrepresented and disadvantaged socially, politically, and economically.

On the other side, there still exists a race problem and people usually fear unknown things. When for example, white officers stop black guys they do not know what to expect from them. And for that reason, they can sometimes react with excessive force. Moreover, there is little distinction in making decisions by white and minority officers (Peak, 2003). They think that the criminal justice system is composed almost exclusively of white employees, many of whom possess little understanding of minority communities or their cultures. The task force concluded that this lack of understanding created distrust among the state’s minority populations. Besides, today some black officers may think they shall control the minorities and they act too harshly with them (Johnson 1991).

Today, still many black citizens and other minorities do not believe in the criminal justice system. They think that different standards are used for minority communities, i.e., who have more money can expect a higher level of police service. To begin with, the criminal justice system shall teach their officers how to communicate with ethnic groups and to change the way they deal with minority communities today. Police officers in their work shall break the wall of race difference. In their communication with minority groups, police officers shall break distrust, show patience for people and provide reliable information for them.

Police officers have to show tolerance to minorities regarding language barriers, ignorance, or misunderstanding of laws by a member of minorities. Police officers shall try to understand the attitudes of all members of the community, including minorities. By joining with the many citizens who want a fair and equitable criminal justice system, police officers will find that the real minority is not defined by race or class. The real minority is comprised of the few criminals who victimize society with little fear of being brought to justice (Peak, 2003).

To diminish the gap between the criminal justice system and minorities some steps shall be taken:

  • establishing of community-oriented policing – clearly-formulated community-oriented policing efforts will enhance the relationships between minority communities and the criminal justice system;
  • new goals – criminal justice system institutions shall set real and practical goals concerning establishing better relations with minority groups.
  • involvement of minority communities – criminal justice system institutions shall provide the same level of service to all communities without any differentiation; every person notwithstanding his race of beliefs shall receive the same level of respect. In return, the police should demand that the entire community get involved in the policing process by reporting crimes (Peak, 2003).

To communicate effectively with minorities, police officers shall be aware of their cultural difference and respect the traditions and beliefs of ethnic groups, their religion, and race. Police departments shall keep the tendency to be less aggressive. The number of women and minority officers shall increase in police departments (Johnson 1991). The criminal justice system shall overpower the idea that police is oriented only for man where only physical strength and manual power are needed.

The criminal justice system has searched for people with good interpersonal skills that can meet the requirements of a twenty-first century policing. A diverse staff of police departments will help to make good relations and to understand properly both minorities and the criminal justice system. The state shall play also an important role in establishing good relations. It must guarantee education for minorities, to inform them about their rights and duties (Schuman et al 2003).

The prejudices are a part of a negative image of different ethnic groups associated with terrorist attacks and jihad movements. Although behavior cannot always be predicted based on whether it is culturally shaped or socially learned, it is probable that employer recognition considerably encourages acceptance of diversity. Overt behavior is likely when there is a willingness to accept the Arab Muslim ethnic group as a part of the staff. Some companies act out their anti-diversity attitudes no matter how negatively management reacts to them. Segregation and racism are interlinked and become apparent in all social spheres of life.

These negative attitudes are learned mainly from mass media and negative publicity. The American society learns most of the attitudes from TV news and the press. As ego-deflating, as it may be to accept, it is a fact that a few political leaders invent attitudes for most people. An attitude about racial diversity, for instance, is a complex perceptual invention, and society is not perceptually creative. The superiority of native citizens or inferiority of Arab-Muslim groups (as contrasted to that of a person is not obvious; not many casual observers can perceive significant group differences. Also, there are more differences within racial or ethnic groups than between them. Unfortunately, most criminal justice system institutions and agencies bring racial differences to work with the–bags packed by other people.

This behavior is magnified when foreigners come to the United States. The criminal justice system should focus first on Americans who work and live in foreign countries. Specifically, it is their negative attitudes, stereotypes, prejudices, and ethnocentrism that become barriers to including foreigners in diversity plans. Americans often become defensive and feel threatened by foreign workers. Even when they are in other countries as foreigners and must adjust to a dominant culture, they resist (Schuman et al 2003).

In sum, every law enforcement organization and criminal justice system is a part of a community and has its own culture and traditions. Racial discrimination in the criminal justice system is a result of social and political factors affected American society for many centuries. Personal and individual prejudices and negative attitudes towards other racial groups are the main factors of discrimination. Police departments are the reflection of the whole society. Traditional police culture developed long before based on points of view of the society. The suspicion which the ethnic groups and minorities now feel about the police often reflects their negative view of society.

Twenty-first countries become more diverse. Criminal justice institutions can change the situation by realizing, understanding, accepting, and controlling cultural diversity and human differences in their departments and communities. Better educated police officers (together with minority officers and women officers) may bring new ideas and approaches to their communities that can help to solve many problems with minorities, low social calluses, racial and ethnic groups.


Jason B. Johnson, (1991). “Police Agencies Struggle to Rebuild Ties with Minorities,” The Dallas (Texas) Morning News, 9-A.

Peak, K.J. (2003). Policing American Methods, Issues, Challenges (Inglewood, CA: Regents/Prentice-Hall.

Schuman, H., Steeh, C., Bobo, L., Krysan, M. (2003). Racial attitudes in America: Trends and interpretations. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

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