My Mother and I were over at my brother’s house one evening and I noticed how upset my nephew was. I asked what was wrong, and angry/upset he said how unfair it was that he got in trouble for something his sisters did. He truly believed that his mom gave him an unfair punishment and didnt deserve to be in trouble. My first question was is he truly innocent? Was it fair? Should I speak up or mind my own business? What most people dont realize is that not everyone gets a fair punishment. Unjust punishment does exist and can happen anywhere even in our own home. It usually occurs when an innocent person is found guilty by plea or verdict. In this paper we will examine what unjust punishments are/case examples, why minorities are at a higher risk of being wrongfully committed and DNA advancements.
According to most online articles I read crime became an issue around the 80s’ and 90’s. During that time the government came up with harsher punishments hoping to decrease crime however it only made matters worse. A recent study showed that around 39% of people that are currently behind bars should not be there. This is because they are wrongfully convicted due to the lack of good evidence or a fair trial. There is no doubt that most people will say that criminals only get what they deserve however any abuse that they receive while being in prison from fellow prisoners or from staff is in fact way more than they deserve. Like most people say An Eye for and Eye you get what you deserve. Most crimes that are well known to have unjust punishments are rape cases, non-violent crimes and low-level offenders. Sentences should be based on what works to prevent the crime, not vengeance. One of the most frequent explanations for the different outcomes is that minorities do not trust the justice system and they opt for a jury trial rather than pleading guilty at a lower court where they could potentially receive a lesser sentence. Many people in the United States are getting less familiar with the rights they have and dont know what they can do when it comes to situations like being put to trial or try to get a bail. Even though there is a process for jury selection you are not always guaranteed that the outcome will not be biased. Most of the time, the people serving in jury will never know the person who committed the crime. This can stop the receiving of wrongful convictions or even sentencing disparities.
In the past years there have been multiple documented crimes where offenders have been given an unfair sentence time due to their race or even skin color. In two cases, one being a white male named Brock Tuner and the other one being an African American male by the name of Brandon Banks Both convicted for rapes charges, but one of the offenders got six months in jail while the other got at least fifteen years (Barchenger & Tamburing, 2017). Both offenders committed the same crime but because one offender, Brock Tuner was white and wealthy he was laid off from serving many years in prison because it could damage him (Barchenger & Tamburing, 2017). At the end Tuner only served six months and was able to get released in three months for good behavior. Unlike Brandon Banks, he was convicted for rape and was trialed and sentence to at least fifteen years in prison just because he was an African American male. These types of trials happen all over the United States. Another example is from 2016 in East Cleveland Ohio where a handful of defendants who were framed by police officers finally got their cases dismissed. The police officers pled guilty in federal court and were sentenced for plating drugs, stealing cash and filing false arrest warrants. The policy officers admitted to framing drug dealers- all who happened to be African American. There were over 40 individuals who served a 2-year sentence for being framed and wrongfully committed (Caudill, 2016).
Being of Hispanic descent I was interested in finding out about unfair sentences for minorities. Many question if gender, race, ethnic background or class has a big impact in sentencing disparities. The answer is yes, all of these can result in discrimination of all types. In Los Angeles California in 1999 several agencies learned that for several years or even more, a group of officers in the Los Angeles Police Department had routinely lied and caused many innocent defendants to go wrongfully committed. The great majority were young Hispanic men who they believed to be part of a gang and in the end were not part of a gang (Covey, 2013). The average white male sentence length is usually around 58 months unlike 63 months with African American males (Lopez & Zarracina, 2017). African-Americans are directly targeted and punished more than white people. There is a handful of information about race in our textbooks, the newspapers and even in the media. From drugs, police stop, arrest, getting out on bail, jury selection, trials, sentencing to freedom race plays a huge factor. The US has been seeing an increase in crime since the 80’s and 90’s mostly due to the war on drugs. Statistics show that African American use less drugs than white people but are 6 times more likely to be stopped and searched for drugs (Lopez & Zarracina, 2017). Facts show that police officers stop African Americans and Latinos at rates higher than whites. Once arrested, minorities are more likely to remain in prison awaiting trial because they either cant afford to pay the bail or dont understand the rights they have. Back in 2004 The American Bar Association stated that, “All too often, defendants plead guilty even if they are innocent, without really understanding their legal rights or what is occurring.” Our rights in this country applies that we have a right to lawyer however that does not always work as some are questioned without an attorney or they are forced into a plea or confession. It is unlawful for an offender to not be provide an attorney to help him fight his case. In all states the offender is provide a free attorney if they cant get one themselves
Before the discovery of DNA, many trials relied on witnesses who saw or experienced the crime. No one used DNA to solve crimes until the early 1980s. An English Biologist named Alec Jeffreys started to investigate the use of DNA for forensics (Evolution of DNA Evidence for crime solving, 2016). After that break through, the use of DNA is used everywhere to document offenders and to help solve crimes. In recent years many cold cases have been brought back to ensure that the convict who is jailed is really the person who should be serving time. In many accounts, inmates have been released from jail because they were wrongfully convicted due to the lack of evidence provided. Upon release the inmates usually sues the prison or persecutor for the wrongful conviction (Sinking above the Line, 2018). DNA now saves many peoples life from being falsely convicted. Police all over the U.S use DNA to catalog offenders into a large database to ensure the identity of the person, this helps the officer to gain quick access of the persons information. Without the use of DNA more and more people would face wrongful convicts and wouldnt have a good and proper way to defend against them.
In conclusion, there is no true fix to unjust punishments. Many people in the United States face unjust crimes and punishments. From being racially profiled to being wrongfully convicted for something they didnt do. This is a day to day problem we face everywhere not just in the United States. But with technology and science that is always changing such as DNA and body cameras to provide as evidence to properly convict someone. With these new advancements there are less and less wrongful convictions and less sentencing disparities in the United States.