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INSTITUTIONAL RACISM WITHIN THE STRUCTURE OF AMERICAN PRISONS (FROM BLACK PERSPECTIVES ON CRIME AND THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM, 1977 BY ROBERT L WOODSON - SEE NCJ-44997)

NCJ Number
45004
Author(s)
J DEBRO
Date Published
1977
Length
18 pages
Annotation
THE EFFECTS OF COLLECTIVE, INSTITUTIONAL RACISM DIRECTED AGAINST BLACKS ON PRISON DISCIPLINE, INMATES' WORK ASSIGNMENTS, AND THE DEEMPHASIS OF REHABILITATION AS A MAIN OBJECTIVE OF THE CORRECTIONS SYSTEM ARE EXPLORED.
Abstract
MANY STUDIES HAVE SHOWN THAT BLACKS ARE MORE VULNERABLE TO ARREST THAN WHITES; OTHERS HAVE SHOWN THAT EVEN AFTER CONVICTION BLACKS ARE THE OBJECTS OF DISCRIMINATION, AS THEY RECEIVE LONGER PRISON SENTENCES AND LESS OFTEN RECEIVE THE BENEFITS OF PROBATION AND PAROLE. IN THE 10 YEARS SINCE 1967, THE PRISON SYSTEM'S POPULATION HAS SHIFTED FROM A MAJORITY OF WHITES TO A MAJORITY OF BLACKS. THE AUTHOR ASSERTS THAT A NEW STRATEGY HAS BEEN DESIGNED TO ENSURE THAT WHEN A BLACK OFFENDER RETURNS TO THE COMMUNITY HE IS WORSE THAN WHEN HE WAS COMMITTED. THE FOREMOST EXAMPLE OF INSTITUTIONAL RACISM IN THE ADMINISTRATION OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE IS WHITE DOMINATION OF THE STRUCTURES AND AGENCIES WHICH ADMINISTER JUSTICE -- THE POLICE, THE CORRECTIONAL SYSTEM, AND THE COURTS. STATISTICAL RELATIONSHIPS HAVE BEEN SHOWN BETWEEN THE RACE OF DEFENDANTS AND THE SENTENCES THEY RECEIVE, HOWEVER, IT IS EXTREMELY DIFFICULT TO PROVE A CAUSAL RELATIONSHIP. WITH REGARD TO DISCIPLINE WITHIN PRISONS, CERTAIN COURTS HAVE REACHED THE CONCLUSION THAT BLACK INMATES ARE MORE LIKELY THAN WHITE INMATES TO BE SUBJECTED TO SEVERE PENALTIES, AND IF SENTENCED TO PUNITIVE ISOLATION, ARE LIKELY TO STAY THERE LONGER THAN WHITES. THE PHILOSOPHY OF REHABILITATION HAS COME UNDER ATTACK FROM CORRECTIONS AUTHORITIES; PROPOSALS HAVE SUGGESTED A RETURN TO FIXED AND DETERMINATE SENTENCES, RETAINING REHABILITATION ONLY AS A SUPPLEMENTARY GOAL OFFERED ON A VOLUNTARY BASIS. SUCH VIEWS HAVE BEEN STATED AS OFFICIAL POLICY BY THE DIRECTOR OF THE FEDERAL BUREAU OF PRISONS. COVERT RACISM IN THE PRISON SYSTEM MAY ALSO TAKE THE FORM OF ASSIGNMENTS WITHIN THE INSTITUTION; WHITES GENERALLY ARE GIVEN THE CHOICE WORK ASSIGNMENTS, AND OFTEN BLACKS ARE GIVEN CUSTODY CLASSIFICATIONS WHICH LIMIT THEIR MOVEMENT WITHIN THE INSTITUTION. A DISCUSSION OF THE PROBLEM BY OTHER CRIMINAL JUSTICE EXPERTS IS PRESENTED, AND REFERENCES ARE INCLUDED.