Racial bias and discrimination in the United States' criminal justice system is an issue that has affected minorities for many decades. On the surface, crime and punishment seems to be a straightforward and rudimentary principle. Doesn't it make sense that if a person commits a crime that the person should face the repercussions from it? Although, when we begin to dig deeper it becomes evident that incarceration in the United States poses a broad moral and ethical dilemma that stems from years of racial injustice perpetuated against minorities, namely, African American and Hispanic men. America's approach to mass incarceration is racist and flawed because of the lack of sentencing and policing reform, how it negatively impacts the lives of inmates who are non-violent offenders, and because of the way that it affects inmates' lives once they get out of prison.
It is well documented that there has been a substantial increase in America's prison population within the past 30 years. America's penal population has increased six fold between 1972 and 2000, leaving 1.3 million men in state and federal prisons by the end of the century (Pettit and Western 151). There is also the fact that over 90% of prisoners are men, and that incarceration rates for African American men are about 8 times higher than those for white men (Pettit and Western 152). A large reason for this is due to the lack of sentencing and policing reform in our criminal justice system. For example, in a VICE Special Report, Bobby Reed, an inmate at El Reno Federal Prison in El Reno, OK is serving a life sentence without parole for a first time non-violent offence for conspiracy to possess cocaine with the intent to distribute. Reed was convicted in 1995, which was not long after President Reagan in 1986 signed an enormous omnibus bill that created mandatory minimum penalties for drug offences. Possession of at least one kilogram of heroin or five kilograms of cocaine became punishable by at least ten years in prison.