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Racial Disparities in Incarceration

            If we reflect back on the history of the United States, we seem to have come a long way in the fight against racism; we even have our first African American president in office. It would appear that we are close to achieving the equality we have been striving for as a nation, if we have not already achieved it. However, despite what progress we have made, racism is still a significant problem in today's society, and it is apparent when we take a closer look at our criminal justice system. The United States imprisons more people than any other country in the world, but that is only the beginning of our problem. Beyond that, minority races are incarcerated at a much higher rate than Caucasians (Criminal Justice Fact Sheet). If this trend continues, about 1 in 3 black males born in 2001 can expect to spend time in prison at some point in their lives (Garrison 2011:89). This racial disparity within our system in conjunction with the high rate of incarceration poses a pertinent social problem as it severely disrupts minority communities and drains taxpayer dollars that could be better allocated. According to Professor Finnigan, there are three criteria that must be met in order to classify an issue as a social problem. These are that it must be experienced by many people, related to the organization of society, and generally considered by the population to be or to lead to a negative outcome (Finnigan, Lecture [9 January 2015]).
             When one in 99 people in the United States are living behind bars, it is impossible to deny that mass incarceration is effecting many people (The Prison Crisis). It is important to note, though, that the problem of mass incarceration does not strike us all equally. It disproportionately targets minority populations and the undereducated, particularly among young black males. According to The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, "African American and Hispanics comprised 58% of all prisoners in 2008, even though African Americans and Hispanics make up approximately one quarter of the US population" (Criminal Justice Fact Sheet).

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