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M100 Criminal Law And Criminal Justice

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M100 Criminal Law And Criminal Justice

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Course Code: M100
University: De Montfort University

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Country: United Kingdom

Question:
Discuss about the Criminal Law and Criminal Justice, US government have always encouraged mass incarceration of black men which is a degrading act of injustice. Hence, to curb such practices.
Answer:
Introduction:

The freedom of the black men was short-lived in the new post-civil war era on account of the advent of criminalization and imprisonment in bulk in replacement of chattel slavery. This paper will strive to analyze the diverse effect that U.S. criminal justice system have had on black men, past and present, by referring to ‘The New Jim Crow’ by Michelle Alexander, ‘Slavery By Another Name’ by Douglas A. Blackmon and the work of Philippe Bourgois (Graff, 2016). The state government of the United States includes a set of departments, institutions, agencies and political authorities which holds a significant value in the socio-political scenario of the nation. Historically, the minority section of the population has been compartmentalized and categorized by the US government’s politicians. The government and the quasi-government have always influenced the behavior towards the black men who have endured discrimination in terms of social, political and institutional bias, which is crueler and harsh than any other minority section of the nation. With an intention to marginalize the strength of black men and to make benefit on their imprisonment, the US government have always encouraged mass incarceration of black men which is a degrading act of injustice. Hence, to curb such practices, the Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution was given effect to restrict and remove the system of chattel slavery in the country. The section 1 of the Thirteenth Amendment says that slavery and involuntary servitude, other than legal sanctions, shall not exist in the nation or at any other place within the jurisdiction of the Unites States.
As pointed out by Coates in the article ‘Slavery Made America’ that the southern planters had made huge wealth by dealing in chattel slavery. He stated that the trade involving around 4 million American slaves, worth $3.5 billion makes chattel slavery the largest single financial asset in the United States (Ettinger, 2018). The southern states had the vigorous tendency to implement forced labor codes; in response to which Douglas A. Blackmon stated in his journal that there was a wide range of interlocking laws that intended to jeopardize and criminalize black men (Blackmon, 2009). It is evident that the implementation of the Thirteenth Amendment was sublet, evasive and infested with ambiguity so that the process of exploiting African Americans and making capital out of is not hindered and the capitalist class could keep on reaping the benefits of slavery and forced labor.
Mississippi being the first to enact legal codes for targeting and criminalizing African American in case they refused to enter into work agreements with the white farmers. Evidently, free black workers were forced to work under white people and on refusal, they were falsely sentenced for petty theft, selling cotton post sunset or for using profane language. Sheriffs were incentivized to arrest as many black men as they could irrespective of their guilt. On account of the post-civil war situation, the southern states had passed vagrancy laws that were enforced against black men who were not protected by their employer. These black men arrested for valid reasons were bought and sold as slaves to work on factories, farms, quarries, mines and lumber camps. The newly freed black men from the prison were repeatedly arrested on account of loitering free without being engaged in an employment.
There were various social taboos for the black men like standing in the public or enjoying the taste of freedom or even socializing. These taboos led to repeated enslavement of the black men and they were required to perform physical labour in construction, building infrastructure for highway or Railway without proper food and rest. It is known from the old recorded journals and articles that the prisoners were fed as meagerly as possible so that the sheriff could earn a wider range of profit.  As there were no shortage of slaves and black men the US government exploited the slave labour for capital gain. Different slaves were sanctioned again by way of false allegations and were marked as habitual offenders or seasoned criminals.
In order to attend the American dream as noted in ‘Crack in Spanish Harlem’ by Philippe Bourgois, the black men had a irresistible tendency to sell drugs as a means of making money (Bourgois, 1989).. The black community found it easier to earn fast cash by dealing in crack cocaine in the City. Drug peddling became a means of livelihood among the black communities as referred in ‘Crack in America: Demon Drugs and Social Justice’ by Craig Reinarman and Harry G Levine (Reinarman & Levine, 1997). They mentioned that the inexpensive and dramatic ‘high’ from the crack was considered better for the finances and interest for an immediate escape than the expensive and more ‘subtle high’ of the powdered cocaine. Cocaine was a celebrated drug in the 80’s as it was considered as a sophisticated drug, specially crafted for the ones who could afford it for $75 to $100 per gram compared to crack cocaine which was available for $3 to $20 per vial (Reinarman & Levine, 1997). The black men not only indulged in drug peddling but accidentally got associated with its usage with an excuse to escape the pain and turmoil of the harsh reality. Political leaders from the ruling and opposition parties took charge against the motion and called for a ‘War on drugs’. This paved the way for implementations of law that targeted black drug dealers and users within the cities primarily.
The Thirteenth Amendment of US Constitution prescribed the Anti Drug Abuse Act 1986. The black men were charged unsympathetically more for holding smaller quantities of crack cocaine than that of white men who could afford cocaine powder. Scientifically proven that crack cannot be distinguished from cocaine, still the former was treated in a harsher way than the latter for unknown reasons. As pointed out by Alyssa L. Beaver in Fix on Cocaine Sentencing Policy: Reforming the Sentencing Scheme of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, she wrote that the infamous ‘War on drugs’ campaign of 1980s paved the way for the adoption of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 which has a provision of one hundred to one sentencing ratio of cocaine and crack. This gave the authority to sentence non-violent offenders for decades for possessing, selling or consuming crack. As an aftermath of the situation, young black men today still suffers discrimination in the fields of housing, public benefits, employment and jury service for being a black man along with a prison inmate. The social, political and legal scenario violated the standard of fairness and sympathy on the convictions of the black men. During the period when crack cocaine and cocaine powder was being sold in abundance the government sprang up with initiatives to bring charges against such black drug dealers as the government was more interested in making money than locking up black drug dealers and spending national funds on them. The national and the state Government owns a large stake in the media, specifically TV and radio and through these media resources the government disseminated fear in the mind of citizens who believed that drug usage was an affair of the inner city and black communities.
In addition the general public was influenced by the media for getting rid of the black drug dealers with the help of state and local law enforcement. Michele Alexander on her article ‘The New Jim Crow: How the War on Drugs Gave Birth to a Permanent American Undercaste’ highlighted the concern (Penn, 2011). The law enforcement body along with the support of the general public had an advantage and upper hand over the black men. The time bracket of 1986 to 1982 is the scariest time in the history of the United States pertaining to drug related issues in the 20th century. Prison became a field and mass incarceration became a profitable business within a few years.
Over the 1980s the prison system was primarily privatized and the investors of the prison believed on the notion of the Thirteenth Amendment which required keeping the prison filled. It is evident that more African American adults could be found in the correctional homes, prison, and probation or parole than were ever enslaved in 1850. The owners and shareholders of the privatized prison made use of the detained prisoners by renting them to retail companies where the prisoners worked hard yet earned no profit. Owning or co-sharing a prison became a lucrative business for the wealth corporate executives which degraded the position of black men continuously throughout the history. Kevin R.  Johnson, writer and activist incarcerated for a long time came out with an article at length regarding selling of drugs during the 1990 where he mentioned the inhuman and animal like conditions of the black inmates in the prison. His outrageous defiance of the slave labour system cost him to spend most of his days in the prison in solitary confinement. The article saw the light of the day and was published by The Guardian newspaper with the title ‘Prison Labour Is Modern Slavery’. In the article, he mentioned that the prisoners were provided no healthcare, proper clothing and nutritious food which are the basic necessities for human survival (Novick & Action-LA, 2015). The prisoners were treated like animals. Such blatant degradation & disregard for human lives was kept away from public scrutiny as the consumers were highly dependent on the fruit of labour of the slave prisoners.
It can be argued that the black men and other individuals who were held for buying and selling drugs are returning favors to the community by working for it instead of abusing it further by selling drugs. It can also be added as an argument that the prisoners are being brought through the scanner of reformation by way of imprisonment which actually bring reformative changes in the prisoners. A current example of the contribution of prison inmates can be seen in the case of Wildfire in California where the prison inmates are walking along with the firefighters to suppress the wild forest fire. The article ‘Serving Time, And Fighting California Wildfires For $2 A Day’ by Lakshmi Singh talks about a former prison inmate Daniel Erickson who spent 5 long years fighting fire for the state while he served a sentence for possessing drugs (“Serving time, and fighting California wildfires for $2 a day”, 2018). Erickson now works with Mount Redwood Fences as a productive and contributive member of the society. He states that the profession of firefighting is underpaid however can be compared as far better than slave labor. It is evident that it is not easy to be a criminal but to be a black and a criminal involves undoubted racial outcast along with social and economic exclusion (Alexander, 2012). It is a tendency of the society to mark Black inmates as suspects and criminals even before it is proved that they are guilty. With a sense of disbelief it is to be reported that there are more prisons in the United States for enslaving black men than there are adequate housing accommodations made available to them once they are free from the prison. There is a notion and a stigma that black criminals will eventually return to prison paves the way for slashing the funding for public housing, which makes the Black inmates homeless once they are free.
To conclude, it can be deduced that the norm of bulk confinement is a serious act of inequality, which will always exist in the veins of the United States pertaining to the lives of black men. The lucrative business opportunity by imprisoning black man and reaping benefits from it would also continue to be a tradition. There is a lack of justice within the judicial system when it can be found that a black man who has paid his part for the crime that he had committed yet carries the burden of the crime even after being freed. The chances of the black man to live a clean and respectful life are limited because the society brands black inmates as a criminal forever.
References
“The 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.” National Constitution Center – Constitutioncenter.org, National Constitution Center,
Alexander, M. (2012). The new Jim Crow: Mass incarceration in the age of colorblindness. The New Press.
Bourgois, P. (1989). Crack in Spanish Harlem: Culture and economy in the inner city. Anthropology Today, 5(4), 6-11.
Ettinger, M. C. (2018). Coming Home: The New Economy and Honoring the Inherent Sacredness of All Life. Tikkun, 33(3), 18-23.
Graff, G. (2016). Post Civil War African American History: Brief Periods of Triumph, and Then Despair. Journal of Psychohistory, 43(4).
Novick, M., & Action-LA, A. R. (2015). Building a Culture and Communities of Solidarity, Resistance and Liberation. Turning the Tide, 28(2), 1.
Penn, G. (2011). The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander: A Book Review. Law Raza, 2(1), 4.
Reinarman, C., & Levine, H. G. (Eds.). (1997). Crack in America: Demon drugs and social justice. Univ of California Press.
Serving time, and fighting California wildfires for $2 a day. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.mprnews.org/story/2018/11/18/serving-time-fighting-california-wildfires

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