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Racial Disparities in Criminal Justice System

Marc Mauer, one of the American prominent leading specialists of criminal justice system, provides a detailed review on addressing racial disparities in incarceration as well as suggesting best practices for reducing the former ones. He focuses mainly on the aspect of disparity within the juvenile justice system. The disparity is well pronounced at the early stages of engagement with the administration of juvenile justice. The presence of ethnic or racial disparity accumulates as young people are being treated through each phase of system policy. The evaluation of case processing has shown over time that racial discrepancies within the justice system are growing. However, at this time, much attention is being focused on effective law enforcement practices that seek to eliminate racial disparities in policy decisions. The purpose of this paper is to summarize main arguments provided by Marc Mauer concerning the influence of racism, judicial policies, and actual resources on juvenile cases.


Mauer explains that a significant portion of juvenile criminal cases tend to follow policies and practices that include discrepancies regarding races. The decisions and principles of juvenile justice system perform functions of unconscious bias while allocating the actual resources or using discretion in setting the charges. The researcher identifies the category of race as a significant factor in the process of sentencing in noncapital cases. Besides, in most such situations, the sentencing is also influenced by a combination of such factors as state of employment and type of gender. Furthermore, Mauer claims that there is the evidence that a category of race plays a significant role in judicial processing of homicide cases for conviction and sentencing outcomes.

However, according to the researcher, judicial bias at the sentencing stage is not always caused by racial disparities but can also be a result of race-neutral sentencing strategies. Yet it is common at all times concerning specifically drug policies applied, in particular, to juvenile offenders. In other words, it is evident that ethnicity and race affect the modern-day sentencing decisions. For instance, African American and Hispanic lawbreakers sentenced in federal and state courts encounter stronger chances of incarceration than White offenders in similar cases. Consequently, some jurisdictions may give the former ones longer sentences than to their white counterparts by deliberately generating rule departures.

In recent decades the context of the ‘war on drugs’ has significantly contributed to recognition of racial disparities, resulting in adaptation of a new set of administrative policies. The sentencing policies presently include school zone drug detections and mandatory minimums. The intensification of the war on drugs has resulted in escalated drug arrests and prosecutions followed by substantial ethnic and racial disparities. These racial discrepancies concerning drug arrests reflect actual inequality in sentencing that is aggravated by propagation of mandatory sentencing policies. Therefore, according to statistics, the African Americans and Latinos constitute a higher percentage of drug offenders in various state prisons than the representatives of Caucasian race.

As stated by Mauer, school district drug policies have contributed to unwarranted racial inequalities. However, these laws have been adopted by some states only to deter the selling of medications to children in different learning institutions. As a result, substantial penalties were imposed for offences committed within certain geographical range. Concurrently, high rate of sentencing inequality has greatly modified disproportion of imprisonment that resulted in pressures within different communities.

The races of victims significantly determine which juvenile offenders will be sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. These outcomes are substantially influenced by racial biases that define who should be arrested or detained. In response to such a fact, Mauer specifies that racial discrepancies in sentencing have been greatly influenced by a larger pattern of racial inequalities that has plagued the United States’ criminal justice system regarding such retributions as detention arrest, and incarceration.


In conclusion, Mauer examines policy decisions that have led to a severe imbalance in the approach towards public safety. The initiatives that control crime have integrated a mix of criminal justice responses that have contributed not only to racial disparities but also jurisdiction biases concerning resources. The inception of the war on drugs has resulted in the establishment of policies that currently weight down the criminal justice system. It is essential to note that these discrepancies have not been caused by involvement in drug use; they have rather emerged from discretionary decision-making by the legislatures. Overall, based on his research data, Marc Mauer provides the following examples of alternatives in order to reduce racial divergence: amendment of federal sentencing guidelines, abolition of life sentencing without parole, and actual establishment of policies to mitigate racial disparities.

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