America carries the ideal view of being the “dream country” and melting pot where opportunities and liberal rights are offered equally to all people. However, this is most definitely contradicted by the criminal justice system. People around the world hope to come to the United States with the hopes of achieving the “American dream,” however the criminal justice system is one example of how the United States continues to oppress minorities, people of color, specifically Black and Latino individuals. Although slavery ended in 1865, Black individuals still experienced racial terrorism, subordination, and segregation. This is shown through the establishment of Jim Crow laws and Black codes. Jim Crow laws kept White and Black individuals socially and physically segregated as Blacks were subjected to lesser than equal treatments in a degraded manner. Black codes restricted African Americans into working low wage jobs and allowed the practice of convict labor in which Black individuals, if convicted of a crime, were forced into enslavement. Also, After Ronald Reagan’s presidency, the term war on drugs became popularized as minorities/people of color, mainly Black individuals, were being targeted with drug usage putting them in a position of being viewed with racial degradation. Fast forward to today’s criminal justice system that is influenced through such historical events, it is statistically proven that there is a disproportionately large population of Black individuals who are imprisoned; 40% of Blacks are placed into prison even though there is only 13% of Blacks in the U.S., 19% of Latino individuals are placed into prison even though there is only 16% of Latinos in the U.S., meanwhile, 39% of White individuals are put into prison even though there is 64% of Whites in the U.S.
One example of the ongoing persecution towards people of color in the criminal justice system is conveyed in the case of the Central Park Five. In 1989, five teenagers, Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana, and Korey Wise, ages 14-16 were falsely convicted for harassing and raping a white woman who was jogging in Central Park in New York City. On the night of April 19th, the five Black and Latino teens along with a group 25 other teenagers went to Central Park where some of the teens from the group were harassing a homeless man and another man, which led to the coming of the police in which Santana and Richardson were initially taken into the police station for questioning and so were McCray, Salaam, and Wise later on. The young boys were being asked questions about the woman and the occurrence for 14-30 hours with no food or drinks. As young persons, they were scared and pressured during the interrogation leading them to write different statements and say confessions that the authorities would want to hear in order for them to just be released from questioning. The authorities just wanted to get something out of these young boys, they wanted to hear and know that they had done something unlawful that placed them in a position of culpability. Even when the DNA evidence of the victim didn’t match to any of the five boys, they were still found guilty and incarcerated based on their videotaped confessions which was the only form of “evidence” the detectives, authorities, and other officials involved could solely rely on to present that these five teens did commit the crime. McCray, Santana, Richardson and Salaam were sentenced to 5-10 years and Wise was sentenced to 5-15 years. Their youth was taken away from them, they were separated from their families whom they saw limitedly, and they lived a very harsh life in which they were falsely labeled as committing a crime seen as the most horrible and inhumane act that can be done especially because of the fact that they were Black and Latino persons. Finally, in 2002, the valid convict, Matias Reyes revealed that he raped and sexually assaulted the woman and much work was done to ultimately put down the charges against the five boys. But even after the claim on their being innocent, the media, detectives, and authorities presented their unyielding to being incorrect, more unsusceptible to the reality of the truth, and the need of preserving and guarding those managing the criminal justice system. There wasn’t a huge public claim against the authorities to truly bring justice to these five teens that portrayed that the authorities and criminal justice system were wrong and were (and still is) outrageously racists. This all is a result and ongoing manifestation of racial matters in our history and exhibits the concept of black pathology, social, and racial separation in America’s criminal justice system. There is the idea that people of color, mainly Black individuals, were rooted from families who were bad influences, projected wrong principles of behavior, social and dispositional deficiencies. There truly needs to be an end to this form of racial regularity in the criminal justice system. The society needs to see and be exposed to the fact that many authorities and civil forces care more about protecting the system and themselves, rather than bringing actual equity and justice towards innocent individuals who are falsely incarcerated especially when those being falsely convicted are people of color.
Burns, Ken (producer), Burns, Sarah (producer), Mcmahon, David (producer), Corbley, Jim (producer), & Burns, Ken (director), Burns, Sarah (director), Mcmahon, David (director). (2012). The Central Park Five (motion picture). United States: Sundance Selects.
Hagler, Jamal. “8 Facts You Should Know About the Criminal Justice System and People of Color.” Center for American Progress. N.p., 20 Oct. 2015. Web. 04 May 2017.