The fight for civil rights in America began when the first African, bound by the shackles of slavery, stepped onto American soil. The wicked mixture of ignorance and hatred gave birth to discrimination, strengthened throughout the 246 years of slavery, and continued to fester further even after the signing of The Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th and 14th amendments to the Constitution. In the 1950s and 60s, The American Civil Rights Movement fought segregation, racial violence, and voter suppression, known as “Jim Crow Law”, through civil disobedience: direct action with nonviolent resistance. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a turning point in American history; it outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. It prohibited discrimination in public facilities, in government, and in employment. However, after all the victories The Civil Rights Movement has won for all Americans, racial discrimination is still prevalent in American society today. In this essay I will discuss discrimination in our justice system and provide facts to prove the disparity between white and black justice in America.

In Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” King exposes the reader to the injustices and discrimination that black Americans suffered as a result of racism and segregation. King wrote this letter in response to eight Alabama clergymen who jointly issued a public statement asking civil rights activists to stop demonstrating and wait for the courts to decide the issue. King responded is his letter,”I guess it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging dart of segregation to say wait. But when you have vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policeman curse, kick, brutalize, and even kill your black brothers and sisters with impunity;…then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait” (King 101). King conveys to the reader with strong emotion the importance and the reasons why civil rights could no longer wait. However, after all the adversity that Black Americans have endured in the fight for civil rights, they are still waiting for equality in the American justice system.

The U.S. Department of Justice’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program releases a report annually called Crime in the United States. This report provides a statistical compilation of offense and arrest data provided by law enforcement agencies nationwide. The UCR Program collects information on violent crimes and property crimes, and gathers arrest data for twenty-nine offenses-charges. The 2005 edition of Uniform Crime Reports: Crime in the United States revealed that out of the 10.2 million arrests made, 69.8 percent of the arrestees were white and 27.8 percent were black (“Table 43: Arrest by race, 2005”). Out of the twenty-nine “offense-charged” categories compiled in this report, Twenty-seven categories were notably dominated by white arrestees. Sixty-one percent of all adults arrested for violent crimes in 2005 were white, and 69.4 percent of adults arrested for property crimes in 2005 were white (“Table 43: Arrest by race, 2005”). After examination of the facts represented, one might conclude that there would be more whites in prison than any other race. However, one would be wrong.

The U.S .Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics website indicates that blacks are almost three times more likely than Hispanics and five times more likely than whites to be in jail (“Bureau of Justice Statistics Jail Statistics”). In a report compiled by Paige Harrison and Dr. Allen Beck, entitled Prison and Jail Inmates at Midyear 2005 reveals that “the largest differences in incarceration rates between whites and blacks were in Iowa (14 times higher for blacks) and Connecticut, New Jersey, and Vermont (more than 12 times higher for blacks)” (10). Is this because of racial discrimination or economic inequalities?

The information compiled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and presented in “Table 43a”, of the Uniform Crime Report: Crime in the United States revealed that over a ten year period, from 1995 to 2005, whites made up 68.9 percent of the total arrest (see Chart 1, Table 1) and blacks made up 27.8 percent of the total arrest. As of June 30, 2004 there were 2,131,200 prisoners held in Federal or State prisons or in local jails from midyear 2003 (Paige. Prison and Jail Inmates at Midyear 2004. “Table 13.” 11). Out of this total number of prisoners, 42.7 percent are black, 18.5 percent are Hispanic, and 36.5 percent are white (Paige. Prison and Jail Inmates at Midyear 2004. “Table 13.” 11). Why are there less whites incarcerated than blacks? The numbers just do not add up. Let us review, 68.9 percent whites arrested over a ten year period, equals more blacks in prison! Something stinks here.

At the end of 2004, “there were 3,218 black male sentenced prison inmates per 100,000 black males in the United States, compared to 1,220 Hispanic male inmates per 100,000 Hispanic males and 463 white male inmates per 100,000 white males” (U.S. Dept. of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. “Prison Statistics”). An estimated 12% of black males, 3.7% of Hispanic males, and 1.7% of white males in their late twenties were in prison or jail sometime in their lives (Harrison, “Prison and Jail Inmates at Midyear 2005” 1). Is this evidence of racial bias in the American justice system or a sign that Justice has a price tag?

After all the hardships that Black Americans have experienced fighting for their civil liberties; they are still waiting for equality in the justice system. If we took economic inequalities out of the equation, would the ratio of blacks to whites in prison be different? In my opinion it would not be. Whites will still represent the majority of arrestees and blacks would still represent the majority of those incarcerated. Black Americans will continue to wait for justice they rightly deserve and are constitutionally promised.

Works Cited

Harrison, Paige M. and Allen J. Beck, Ph.D. Prison and Jail Inmates at Midyear 2005. Washington, D.C.: GPO, May 2006. 12 November 2006

—. Prison and Jail Inmates at Midyear 2004. Washington, D.C.: GPO, April 2006. 12 November 2006

King, Martin Luther. “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” The Mercury Reader. Ed. Janice Neulieb, et al. Boston, MA: Pearson, 2005. 95-114

United States. Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. Bureau of Justice Statistics. “Jail Statistics.” 6 September 2006. 12 November 2006

—. “Prison Statistics.” 11 October 2006. 12 November 2006

United States. Department of Justice. Federal Bureau of Investigation. “Table 43: Arrest by race, 2005.” Crime in the United States 2005: Uniform Crime Reports. Washington, D.C.: GPO. 2006. 12 November 2006.

—. “Table 43: Arrest by race, 2004.” Crime in the United States 2004: Uniform Crime Reports. Washington, D.C.: GPO. 2005. 12 November 2006.

—. “Table 43: Arrest by race, 2003.” Crime in the United States 2003: Uniform Crime Reports. Washington, D.C.: GPO. 2004. 12 November 2006.

—. “Table 43: Arrest by race, 2002.” Crime in the United States 2002: Uniform Crime Reports. Washington, D.C.: GPO. 2003. 12 November 2006.

—. “Table 43: Arrest by race, 2001.” Crime in the United States 2001: Uniform Crime Reports. Washington, D.C.: GPO. 2002. 12 November 2006.

—. “Table 43: Arrest by race, 2000.” Crime in the United States 2000: Uniform Crime Reports. Washington, D.C.: GPO. 2001. 12 November 2006.

—. “Table 43: Arrest by race, 1999.” Crime in the United States 1999: Uniform Crime Reports. Washington, D.C.: GPO. 2000. 12 November 2006.

—. “Table 43: Arrest by race, 1998.” Crime in the United States 1998: Uniform Crime Reports. Washington, D.C.: GPO. 1999. 12 November 2006.

—. “Table 43: Arrest by race, 1997.” Crime in the United States 1997: Uniform Crime Reports. Washington, D.C.: GPO. 1998. 12 November 2006.

—. “Table 43: Arrest by race, 1996.” Crime in the United States 1996: Uniform Crime Reports. Washington, D.C.: GPO. 1997. 12 November 2006.

—. “Table 43: Arrest by race, 1995.” Crime in the United States 1996: Uniform Crime Reports. Washington, D.C.: GPO. 1996. 12 November 2006.