U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Myth of a Racist Criminal Justice System

NCJ Number
W Wilbanks
Date Published
221 pages
A comprehensive review of existing literature on formal decisions made by criminal justice system personnel concludes that, although individual cases of racial prejudice and discrimination do occur, there is insufficient evidence to support a charge of systematic racism against blacks.
Sharp disagreement exists between blacks and whites over whether the criminal justice system is racist, with almost all blacks believing that the system is racist. This analysis initially explores varying definitions of racism and how the term overlaps with prejudice and discrimination. A review of contrasting perceptions of blacks and whites concludes that both are based on nonscientific evidence and cultural traditions. Difficulties in trying to prove either the discrimination or nondiscrimination thesis are discussed. The book surveys existing research studies, looking for evidence of discrimination by police, prosecutors, judges, and prison and parole officers. Among the specific areas considered are police deployment, use of deadly force, bail decision, plea bargaining, sentencing patterns, inmate classification and discipline, and racism among prison inmates. To demonstrate the lack of conclusive evidence supporting racism, the appendix studies the processing of all felony defendants in California and Pennsylvania from arrest to final disposition. Indexed bibliography of over 700 articles and 450 books.