The discrimination against racial minorities in terms of criminal justice is evident upon the examination of the percentage of black people in prisons. “Although black people make up only just over four percent of the UK population, the black percentage of the prison population has risen from 12.5 per cent in 1985 to 14 percent in 1987.” (Upshall, 1989). The population of blacks in prisons is disproportionately high to the percent of blacks in the population of Britain. This is not only the case in the UK, but is also true with regards to “native Indians in Canada, blacks in the United States, and Aborigines in Australia.” (“Making Waugh,” 1989). Certain people may and often do attribute the disproportionate rates of minorities in prisons to the idea that these people are uncivilised, are more prone to crime for this reason or that, are having trouble coping with modern life, or so forth. In contrast to these notions, the reality is that “the causes lie in the disturbing level of discrimination and institutionalised racism in the criminal justice system.” (“Making Waugh,” 1989).
Being sentenced to jail is only one of the ways blacks are being discriminated against in terms of the criminal justice system in the UK. “In their contact with the criminal justice system, black people face a considerable range of inequalities.” (Ouseley, 1994). Some of these terrible abuses include unwarranted stop and search tactics, arrests and charges of the wrongfully accused, and unnecessary teasing and taunting by police. (Ouseley, 1994). Not only do blacks suffer higher arrest rates than others, but they are more likely to receive harsher sentences for less significant crimes. In cases involving young whites, community service often suffices as punishment. Black defendants, however, are more likely to be sentenced to prison than be given a community service option. "Nearly one in ten young men in the black community will have been locked up by his 21st birthday." (Upshall, 1989).
Upon investigating the role of race in the operation of the criminal justice system, some may also try to make the case that socioeconomic status plays a similar role or perhaps even a greater role. Studies have shown otherwise, however. In one study, similar drug trafficking cases were compared in which the men were either black or white but were all considered to be of a low socioeconomic status. It was noted that blacks were always questioned more about how they obtained their money. One of the black men answered that his grandmother gave him money but they continued to press questions until he admitted to theft. When a white man similarly explained that his girlfriend had lent him money, they left the issue of money alone. (Kalunta-Crumpton, 2000).
In investigating the common practice of racial discrimination in the criminal justice system, it is crucial to examine the reasons this happens. The subjectivity of law combined with existing stereotypes and the tendency for social institutions to reproduce those stereotypes are some of the reasons racial discrimina