Ethics form a vital component of any functioning professional system as it is the basis which creates the image of that system. The pursuit of ethical practices in the legal system has always been for the purposes of ensuring that the legal system in the country stands out as a body that is respectable and credible. The respectability and credibility basis of such an institution relates to the belief that there is high professionalism in the daily practice of that system. Ethical concerns negatively affect the perception of any institution, body, or individual and as such lead to the lack of confidence in that institution and, consequently, disregard for the same.
One of the most pressing ethical concerns has been the issue of discrimination in the criminal justice system. Discrimination refers to the differential treatment and perceiving of individuals basing on a certain criteria. The main concern has been in particular the aspect of racial discrimination. The problem of discrimination in the criminal justice system is an ethical concern as it basically relates to the fact that people experience inequality under the criminal justice system. Such treatment then is morally wrong and goes against the fundamental and constitutional principles of equality of all human beings before the law. Equality before the law demands equal treatment to every human being, basing on the similarities they possess as human beings and not on the basis of race. However, this has not been the case in the American criminal justice where the race of an individual has been the basis upon which the police arrest criminals, prosecutors pursue criminal charges and judges pass harsher sentences (Riley, 2013).
The main reason for the selection of racial discrimination is the highly developed law in the US and principles of equality of all before the law. For any legal system to become mature and achieve a certain level of civilization, it is necessary to attain certain standards of legal processes. Racial discrimination in America remains the biggest problem in the nearly most perfectly functioning legal system in the world (Mac Donald 2008). The US prisons are over-populated with more African Americans than with people of any other race. What is more, judges more likely pass harsher sentences to the black criminals than to the whites. The perception that people of color are more prone to commit crimes has long been debunked, and the criminal justice system needs to realize that crime is not a domain of any particular race. The debate concerning this question remains unresolved (Riley, 2013).
Historically, black people were subjected to discrimination by the system of slavery where slave-owners considered them as properties, which deprived them of rights common for their white masters. Such conditions segregated black people from the society, and even the law did not recognize their rights. Furthermore, discrimination of black people was characterized by the increased lynching incidences that took place in the presence of police officers. The amendments to the Bill of Rights granted blacks equal rights before the law, although that worked more in theory than in practice. The discrimination is continuing to date with more cases of arrests, charges and even conviction of blacks compared to those of whites (Mac Donald, 2008).
The first recommendation on addressing the issue of discrimination in the criminal justice system is carrying out ethical training of the employees, educating them on the fact that individuals commit crimes, but not races. As a result, it would be possible to debunk the theory that black people are more prone to commit crimes than any other race. Secondly, the establishment of proper standards of criminal conduct is necessary in order to avoid the situations where a person appears under arrest simply for being of another race.
In conclusion, the issue of discrimination forms a critical ethical concern in the criminal justice system. The need to comprehensively address this problem becomes more paramount each new day. The criminal justice system, therefore, must reorganize its structures in order to get rid of the inherent discriminatory practices in the system. It is important for people to have confidence that they will not face discrimination because of color of their skin or any other basis, when they seek justice. Equality of all before the law is the ultimate guarantee of justice.
- Mac Donald, H. (2008). Is the criminal-justice system racist? No: The high percentage of
- blacks behind bars reflects crime rates, not bigotry. City Journal, 18(2).
- Riley, J.L. (2013). Race, politics and the Zimmerman trial. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887323394504578608182550247030