Disparity and Discrimination

On multiple occasions, individuals have considered the terms disparity and discrimination to be synonymous. However, this is not the case. The misinterpretation has had diverse effect in the way that individuals view the criminal justice system in the country. For instance, whenever a dark-skinned individual is incarcerated for a crime such as drug trafficking, majority of the citizens consider the punishment as racially motivated (Bilchik, 1999). Most dark skinned individuals believe that their skin color would induce arrests, prosecutions, and imprisonments; a scenario which they define as discrimination. In fact, that would be discrimination of the basis of their race. On the other hand, disparity refers to the demographic difference amongst the represented group. In the criminal justice system, there are instances where statistics on the inmates suggest differences on the basis of race, gender, and age. These demographics imply that disparity exists (Frontline PBS, 2005). However, this does not imply that discrimination is widespread. A mere rate of incarceration amongst a section of the society does not imply that the justice system discriminates individuals on the basis of their social backgrounds.

Most accusations of discrimination in the criminal justice system are not based on facts on the ground. In most cases, critics do not scrutinize a scenario before asserting that there exists inequality in the society. For instance, whenever a city becomes home to a large number of individuals of a race, there may be an influence the racial demographics of the people held in the correctional facilities (Frontline PBS, 2005). The situation may be intensifies by factors such as unemployment, in adequate basic facilities, and illiteracy. Such a scenario has been witnessed in a number of neighborhoods in Detroit city.

Discrimination refers to the actions against an individual on the basis of his sex, race, age, among other background characteristics. This differs from disparity as disparity is an indication of differences among members of the society. While discrimination results from human action, disparity has a host of other causes. As such, while a portion of disparity may be as a result of discrimination, there are other factors that influence disparity. Nevertheless, many people regard discrimination as the cause of disparity (Bilchik, 1999). In fact, a couple of studies have indicated that black men are more likely to be subjected to searches than the members of the white race. The frequent searches are said to result into disproportionally higher rate of arrests. In most instances, individuals with gainful employment are more likely to be considered for leniency than the unemployed lot. This means that if members of a race are not as educated as their counterparts, the uneducated lot ends up forming the majority of inmates as it is difficult for them to get employment, and, therefore, cannot be considered for leniency.

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Available statistics have indicated that women serve relatively short jail terms than the males, even in situations when similar crimes are committed. Although there could be a justifiable reason behind this fact, most members of the society see it as a form of discrimination, and consequently, a source of disparity (Bilchik, 1999). An attorney from Santa Clara, Kurt Kumli, sought to explicate a leading source of racial disparity in cases involving juvenile. Mostly, juveniles who commit minor crimes are considered for parole. However, for a juvenile to be considered for parole, there must be a possibility that he/she will be under the watchful eye of a parent or guardian. According to the attorney, this implies that a juvenile whose parents are available is more likely to be released on parole as compared to that of poor single parent who has to work on for long hours every day. Such an arrangement, asserts Kurt Kumli, does not amount to discrimination. He argues that the arrangement is necessary in order to protect society from the danger of criminality (Bilchik, 1999). Therefore, although prevailing circumstances may result into disparity, the result is not always attributable to discrimination. As with cases involving juveniles, a situation would only amount to discrimination if a juvenile is incarcerated on the basis that being black or brown poses danger to society.

Possible Solution

An effective way of eliminating discrimination is to ensure that every offender who commits a particular is punished in the same manner under the law. Issues to do with racial or religious backgrounds should not apply during court proceedings. In situations where an offender is being considered for parole, the parole board must not consider suggestions that are based on race, sex, or religion. However, the board should have the capacity to evaluate the possibility of the offender getting into gainful employment. Moreover, the board should also evaluate the criminal history of an individual before arriving at its decision. Members of the society should be sensitized as to why the justice system finds it useful to consider these factors during criminal proceedings (Bilchik, 1999). Understanding of the manner in which the justice system works would, in effect, reduce public outcry on disparity.

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