The definition of ethnicity is still subject to debate as it is mostly perceived to have synonymy with other terms like race. However ethnicity is more than the color of the skin, it is the totality of who a people are. Ethnicity is cultural background inclusive of place of origin, history and way of life. The United Kingdom has a population of diverse ethnicity owing to the history of war, slavery, migration and immigration. Social structures seem to draw lines based on ethnicity with certain behaviors automatically being associated with certain ethic groups. One vital social structure is the justice system which should protect the laws of the land including human rights and dispense justice in case of violations. This paper examine the relationship between ethnicity and criminal justice and the influence of ethnicity on the criminal justice system. The criminal justice system should ideally provide a safe environment for conflict resolution with discrimination based on ethnicity. The relationship between Black and minority ethnic communities and the criminal justice system has always been tense.
For instance Black ethnic communities are labelled violent whereas Asian minorities are labeled terrorist. While a few of the groups are, applying a generalized perception to the whole community is unfair. A statistical report by the Ministry of Justice (2014) showed that Black and ethnic minority groups are overrepresented in the criminal justice system compared to the white ethnic group. The criminal justice system should look out for groups vulnerable to social marginalization and oppression. Globalization is rapidly influencing cultures and shifting stereotypes based on perceived characteristics associated with a particular ethnic group.
The police, criminal justice experts and the courts are part of the different levels of the criminal justice process and their conduct could be linked to either overrepresentation or underrepresentation of certain ethnic groups. Policing black communities is clearly different from other ethnic groups with stop and search rates being up to 26.6 time more (Bowling analysis). The number of arrests, prosecutions and convictions in England and Wales seem have an ethnicity trend. The numbers are consistently higher for the Black and ethnic minority groups in all the three categories.
Sociology theories attribute certain cultural styles to high crime rates. While this may hold water, prejudice practiced by some criminal justice practitioners puts minorities at a disadvantage. Frustration from generalized perception may drive communities to become the perceived stereotypes to fit the label and infuriate the rogue justice system.
Streamlining of the criminal justice system requires political good will as well as ethnic good will. A deeper understanding of the cultural influences of the criminal and the justice experts. Recognition that certain ways of life in ethnic communities could embolden criminal activities should educate the society and motivate them towards shunning such behavior. This would especially be a critical prevention measure for young adults. Many criminal gangs terrorizing neighborhood comprise of young people. Programs that address early prevention and intervention for problem related behavior in juveniles should be put in place. Black and ethnic minorities must also acknowledge that right come with responsibilities.
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