Social Sciences

Start Free Trial

What are the five main reasons that people of color are over represented in the criminal justice system? Of what significance is the difference between the actual number of whites in prison versus African Americans and/or Hispanics and rates of each per 100,000 of the population?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

First of all, when your question says “the five main reasons,” it sounds as if you might be expected to provide a specific list of reasons.  I suggest that you consult your textbook and/or lecture notes to find this list.  Different people will have different lists of reasons for this phenomenon.  Let us look at some explanations that some people have given.

Some people argue (though this is generally considered to be a racist argument) that people of color are simply more prone to criminality.  It is clear that more people of color are arrested, and some argue that this is, at least to some degree, due to biological factors. 

A much more common argument is that people of color live in situations that make them more likely to engage in criminal activity.  The more conservative version of this argument holds that people of color live in a “culture of poverty.”  This culture is said to glorify and encourage criminal activity.  The more liberal version of the argument holds that people of color tend to live in poverty and poverty causes people to be more likely to commit crimes.

Other arguments tend to blame racism for the disparity in prison populations.  Some people argue that the criminal justice system is racist.  They point out things like the fact that people of color are more likely to be arrested for drug offenses even though they are less likely to use drugs than white people are.  Other people argue that society as a whole is racist.  They argue that our criminal justice system is simply a reflection of our racist society.  This sort of argument is much more of a liberal argument.

Thus, there are a variety of reasons that can be given to explain the disparity in the prison population.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial