The American criminal justice system has faced many criticisms, one of the largest of which is how the system disproportionately plays host to large percentages of minorities. While there may be a number of factors that contribute to this issue, it also seems that social views play a big role. In fact, a recent study from Stanford University's Psychology department found that race is a large influential factor in tough criminal justice policies. According to the study, white people tend to support harsher criminal laws and policies if there is evidence that it targets black people.
The study's findings may be controversial, but there is quite a bit of evidence to support it. According to researchers, white people are often supportive of policies that perpetuate inequality when they are presented with evidence that African Americans are "significantly over-represented in jails and prisons." According to statistics, 40 percent of America's prison population is black, despite the fact that African Americans make up just 12 percent of the country's total population.
Researchers were able to come to this conclusion after conducting two experiments during which white volunteers watched videos containing mug shots. One group watched a video with 25 percent of African American mug shots. The other watched a video with 45 percent depicting African Americans. Volunteers were then asked if they would sign a petition calling for a harsh sentencing law to be eased. Over half of the group that saw fewer mug shots of African Americans signed the petition; only 27 percent of the group that saw more black inmates signed.
The second experiment involved two groups of white volunteers viewing racial data of the prison population – the first group being shown that African Americans make up 40 percent of the prison population and the second group being shown 60 percent. Similar to the first experiment, the group being shown more Africans Americans in the criminal justice system was more supportive of tougher policies.
The study says a lot about how Americans view racial disparities in our prisons, and perhaps opens the door for advocates to better connect with voters on easing harsh and unfair policies. Our firm supports efforts that address these difficult problems and the policies that have unfairly impacted certain groups. According to Attorney Nicole Chiravollatti, "the attorneys at The Hammer Law Firm are sensitive to the discrimination and disproportionate penalties that still plague African-Americans in the St. Louis area and throughout the state of Missouri. We are committed to ensuring that all of our clients are represented equally and zealously, regardless of race."
If you have questions about your rights after an arrest – or a loved one's arrest – call a St. Louis criminal defense attorney from The Hammer Law Firm, LLC.