Today when we talk about mass incarceration, many people may think that we are talking about a social problem. Yes, it is a big social problem, since America has become the country with highest incarceration rate for years, which is much higher than the incarceration rates of all other western industrial countries. Although each year the United States federal and states government spends about 70 billion dollars on incarceration, some prisons like which in Texas and California still got overcrowded as there are too many prisoners.
However, people often put too much attention just on the population and life quality of prisoners, and they ignore the composition of them like their race. Statistical data shows that black prisoners and white prisoners take about same percentage of the total prison population, which is seemingly equal. But if considering that black people only take 12 percent of the U.S. population, we can find mass incarceration is also a big racial problem. Bobo and Thompson’s study shows much less percentage of African American compares to that of whites believe the judicial system threat blacks and whites equally. The ratio of their percentages comes to nearly one to three.
How does our system cause this racial inequality? The factors are complicated, but the most effective one is racial discrimination. There is a dehumanized association between blacks and apes, which happens implicitly and unconsciously in people’s mind. Because of this dehumanized associating and other stereotyping processes black aspects are often perceived as order, less innocent and more culpable for the crimes than white aspects. These discriminations appear among polices, prosecutors, judges and juries, and it probably leads to a racial biased final judgment. Our law is fair, but the people who execute the law are not fair. Their action and decision can be influenced by their racist thought, even though this process happens invisibly. So how can we solve this problem to create a just system? I don’t know the answer. But I believe that at least to let the society realize it would help this situation.