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Documentary Review Week 8

Documentary Review Week 8

To What Extent Does the US have High Crime Rates?

The Federal Bureau of Investigation( FBI) preliminary Semiannual Uniform Crime Reports, January-June, 2015 presented crime figures based on crime data submitted by law enforcement agencies throughout the country on a voluntary basis. According to Bowers, Sprott & Taff (2013), there was an overall increase of 1.7% in the number of violent crimes (murder, rape under revised category, rape under legacy definition, robbery and aggravated assault) brought to the attention of law enforcement agencies for the first 6 months of 2015 compared with figures reported in 2014 around the same time. Property crime (burglary, larceny-theft and motor vehicle theft rate in the country from January to June of 2015 decreased by 4.2 % compared with data for the same period in 2014. Figures for 2015 indicate that arson (which is also a property crime but reported separately due to inconsistency in the story) decreased by 5.4 % when compared with 2014 figures for the same period.

Why Does the US Retain High Rate of Incarceration

According to Glaze & Parks (2011) in a report ‘Incarceration Nation’ points out that the United States have nearly 25% of the world’s prisoners. At about 2.2 million prisoners in its facilities, the US leads the world in incarceration. One person out of 100 American adults undergoes incarceration; this is ten times higher than that reported in Western Europe and other democracies, the report further found (Rich, 2014). There are various theories outlining the causes of high incarceration in the US, and while this is a broad topic we will discuss few of the causes. The Washington post (2015) fact checker segment by Mitchell Lee identifies the rise in crime in the 1960s through 1970s as one of the reasons, she points out that the US government enacted a series of strict policies that determines the manner in which various activities such as sentencing, drug testing, parole and strikes laws should be that saw more people being incarcerated. Being a 52 state country means that the US legal system is such that criminal investigations and prosecutions take place both within the states and at the national level (Sudbury, 2014). Another factor would be that the US have the less developed network of social service programs, making it depend more in prisons and jails for holding people who otherwise would most suitable being placed in non-institutionalized care. In as much as various states have developed their community based programs to cater for people with mental illness, drug abuse problems, the homeless and troubled youth, the national government needs a national support network to provide for these individuals and reduce incarceration.

The growth of incarceration in the United States: Exploring Causes and consequences cited racial disparity as another reason. It indicated unwarranted disparities in imprisonment, invidious bias, and stereotyping, police drug arrest practices, and ethnic profiling features in the U.S criminal justice systems is proportionately affected blacks and Hispanics (Western & Muller, 2013). The growth of incarceration in the United States: Exploring Causes and consequences the National Academies Press cites mandatory minimum sentence, three strikes, truth-in-sentencing, life without the possibility of parole, and similar laws enacted in the 1980s and 1990s as some of the racial disparity affecting blacks and related to high incarceration. There are other social factors such as poverty and income inequality that have contributed to high incarceration rates.

What Lessons are Being Drawn from this Experience?

The federal government should be more vigilant in setting up nation-wide social support facilities to cater for mentally ill individuals, the homeless and troubled youths. In most cases the criminal justice system in the States imposes strict terms for offenses considered minor in other countries. The national government should instate focus on building stable social facilities as opposed to focusing on policies which embrace jail and prisons as correction facilities (Bowers, Sprott & Taff, 2013). Secondly, by locking up over two million workers population in jails and prisons labor shortages is created in the economy and this shortage is then filled up by foreign workers who sometimes gain access to the country illegally or are undocumented for one reason or the other. Prisons have been locations where American families have been isolated from their families, and there is no balance in sex ratio. Those who suffer most are ones in lower social-economic status. A significant of male prisoners are have children while female inmates have small children. In most cases, children whose parents are in prison tend to go there to see them. Perhaps the law policymakers need to conduct an assessment of the causes for the high rise in incarceration in America propose ways of reducing the crimes and implement them.

Why do Certain Parts of America Retain the Death Penalty?

As of July 2015, there were 31 states with the death penalty and 19 states without the death penalty. In May 2015, it was voted in Nebraska that death penalty would be abolished. Some states with the capital punishment rarely practice as is the case with New Hampshire while some have capital punishment laws that result in death sentences are being imposed and executions being carried out. In a practical situation, the death penalty is recommended only in cases of aggravated murder and capital punishment is the most severe punishment but it is not mandatory. The status of the ten inmates on death row remains unclear, however. The Embassy of United States of America cites different reasons for why the U.S still retain capital punishment (Glaze & Parks, 2011). An example of the reasons is that there is increased emphasis on local autonomy which gives the state power to decide. The U.S being constituted of many states means that the law and the exercising of capital punishment vary from one state to the other. David further acknowledges that the nationwide abolition of capital punishment would require not one comprehensive act of abolition as is the case in other nations but 52 distinct acts because the U.S. Constitution allows the states to exercise legislative power in criminal activities. This means that the U.S congress, the senate, and state lawmakers lack the authority to impose national repeal.

On the other hand, there are the Supreme Court decisions which have the authority to enact abolition of capital punishment law by simply declaring unconstitutional nationwide. In 1979, in a case of Furman vs. Georgia, the majority of the court ruled that death penalty sentence did not comply with the constitutional requirements of the due process, provision of protection to cruel punishment. The abolishment almost came true however in 1976 the court declared death penalty constitutionally valid when administered according to approved procedures (Lynch, 2007). This came at the time when capital punishment was reintroduced with reformed procedures and safeguards against arbitrariness and discrimination while practicing the act. The Supreme Court is now more concerned with how the state administers the death penalty law and compliance with the constitution.

What are the Claims about Institutional Racism in the American

Justice System?

Racism is social practices which either that puts more superiority of one race over another through the allocation of superior values to a particular group of people based on their race. Racial discrimination in the criminal justice system remains a controversy as most research suggests an absence of systematic racial discrimination while the majority of researchers ‘opinions supports that acts of discrimination occur at particular decision-making points, both within and outside the system (Rich, 2014). Public perception of the criminal justice system among the minority group is that the system discriminates against them and is, therefore, unjust. A report by the New York State Judicial Commission on Minorities a group of judges, attorneys, and other professionals established that the primary justice systems that work in courts in the new York States are two: where one focuses on the whites while another focuses on minority groups. The panel reported inequality, disparate treatment, and injustice based on race; it was noted that the minority court proceedings lasted than five minutes and black defendants outside of New York City frequently had their cases heard by an all-white jury. Furthermore, the court facilities serving the minority cases were infested with rats and cockroaches, racist graffiti appeared on the walls, the minority family members reported being treated with disrespect and lack of courtesy by court officers.

The criminal justice system is not characterized by racial discrimination implying that discrimination is not systematic. However, there are individual cases occurring within the system that demonstrates racial discrimination at certain decision-making points which could have been due to the adoption of procedures within the system without prior assessment of their effects on minorities (Sudbury, 2014). She found that found minority suspects were more likely than whites to be released after arrest than whites but on a felony charge, those of minority groups were more likely to be sentenced for longer periods compared with the whites. Prior studies disputing that there is systematic racial bias in the criminal justice system were based on discrimination assessment at a single stage in the system and cannot identify discrimination at later stages.


Bowers, A. J., Sprott, R., & Taff, S. A. (2013). Do we know who will drop out?: A review of

the predictors of dropping out of high school: precision, sensitivity, and

specificity. The High School Journal96(2), 77-100.

Glaze, L. E., & Parks, E. (2011). Correctional populations in the United States,

2011. Population6(7), 8.

Lynch, M. (2007). Big prisons, big dreams: Crime and the failure of America’s penal system.

Rutgers University Press.

Rich, B. A. (2014). Observations on the Nature and Extent of Injustice in the American

Prison System. The American Journal of Bioethics, 14(7), 1-3.

Sudbury, J. (2014). Global lockdown: Race, gender, and the prison-industrial complex.


Western, B., & Muller, C. (2013). Mass incarceration, macrosociology, and the poor. The

ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science647(1), 166-189.