In 1640, 3 indentured slaves ran away from their master in Virginia, USA. The three men were caught and put on trial. 2 of the men were sentenced to serve an additional year to their master, as well as another 3 years to the colony. However, the third man, John Punch, was sentenced to be indentured to his master and/or the colony for the rest of his life. What was the reason for this disparity? John Punch was a black man (Higginbotham 1978, p.28-9).
While the criminal justice system has come a long way since the 17th Century, society has yet to realise true equality. Whilst racial discrimination may have been common in the past, the 20th Century and the civil rights movement in the US have fuelled progress for social equality. Yet there still exist racial stereotypes. Since the September 11 attacks, men of Middle Eastern descent often complain of unnecessary harassment when travelling.
The infamous incident of Rodney King, an African-American man who was a victim of police brutality, sparked the LA riots in 1992. Clearly, Dr. King's "I have a dream" speech has a long way to come to fruition. Of particular concern is the excessively high numbers of minority groups in prison. Whether it is the USA or Australia, when contrasted with the civilian population, minority groups are overly represented in prison populations at all levels of the criminal justice system. To understand this worrying trend, all the instigating factors must be identified.
The paper will first explore the practice of racial profiling by law enforcement agencies. As the first point of contact, their policies and practices must be accounted for. It will then investigate the possibility of any racial biases inherent within the criminal justice system, as well as the factors considered when deciding...