David Cole. No Equal Justice: Race and Class in the American Criminal Justice System (New York,The New Press,1999)
|Molly Sutter <mlsutte@ILSTU.EDU>||No Equal Justice|
|Mary Nash <1portia@GTE.NET>||Review of No Equal Justice by Mary Nash|
|Jacqlyn Larson <jalarso@ILSTU.EDU>||Review of No Equal Justice|
|Paul Herrick Peterson <phpeter@MAIL.ILSTU.EDU>||Re: Review of No Equal Justice by Mary Nash|
|David Hurn <dahurn@ILSTU.EDU>||Re: Mary Nash Review: "No Equal Justice" By David Cole|
|Paul Herrick Peterson <phpeter@MAIL.ILSTU.EDU>||Re: Mary Nash Review: "No Equal Justice" By David Cole|
|SMSandLEA@aol.com||Unequal Justice reviewed by Shawna Stewart|
|David Hurn <dahurn@ILSTU.EDU>||Re: David Cole book: "No Equal Justice"|
|Amy Smith <amsmith4@ILSTU.EDU>||Re: Molly Sutter's review of No Equal Justice|
|Date:||Mon, 03 Apr 2000 19:43:37 -0500|
|From:||Molly Sutter <mlsutte@ILSTU.EDU>|
|Subject:||No Equal Justice|
This book lays out strong arguments that our justice system operates according to race and class double standards. Author David Cole argues that the basis of the inequalities are not based on intentional discrimination, but still occur as a “useful’ way to promote a system where people are punished for their criminal activity. The problem is that this system leads to “costs” on protection of equal liberty and to the breakdown of the effectiveness of our criminal justice system. This loss of perceived legitimacy inevitably contributes to the breakdown of race relations in America and therefore community strength.
I liked this book so much because of the author’s reasoning, backed with examples to show that inequality exists, and the suggestions given to remedy this problem. Cole looks more at how differences between the classes, and not so much at a court system that is ideologically bent on keeping the black population down, contributes to a system of inequality in a country where everyone is supposed to be seen as equal before the law.
In the opening chapters he sites how knowledge and exercise of Fourth Amendment rights differs between the social classes. Police take advantage of the fact that the lower class and minorities (blacks and Hispanics) have less knowledge (or confidence to assert) that when asked to be searched, they have the right to say no. It is easy for me to see that police do target out this group of people as potential criminals, when not doing more than walking through an airport or driving down the street. It is especially easy to understand that this goes on because police have lists to profile people according to race and ethnicity. This makes it possible for them to be accused just because they are black or Hispanic.
This argument only goes so far to prove the detrimental effects of inequality, because many of these people, pulled over for a minor traffic violation are guilty of criminal activity. Too many minority people, when targeted for being just that, are guilty. The question is, if whites or people of higher classes were stopped for being that, wouldn’t they also be guilty of having a semi-automatic weapon or a pound of cocaine in their bag.
This leads into legal representation of the criminally accused indigent. Although today it is more common for those to know of and exercise their right to representation when before a judge, the quality of that representation leaves much to be desired. Much of the time, appointed counsel does not invest much time, or may not have any experience in the type of case he or she is defending. Again, this case only goes so far in disputing how much of a problem inequality is in our court system. If it is known, usually by confession of guilt, that the crime was committed by the accused, how far is it necessary to go in making sure that the criminal gets to retain all of his rights. The issue here is one of class inequality. If a person with the resources necessary to hire good counsel is charged with the same crime, he or she will usually be given a less harsh sentence. Focus will be taken off of the crime that was committed and put on the technicalities involving the arrest. A problem too often arises when a criminal defendant’s rights depend of the amount of money he has to hire a good lawyer. There is a need to extend the 14th amendments Equal Protection Clause to get past this.
I’m sure Cole was inspired to write this book after learning the shocking statistics of how overcrowded the nation’s prisons are by black men. In 1996, one in three young black men between the ages of 20 and 29 was on probation, parole, or in prison (151). Many studies show disparities in sentencing between black and white murderers. A study conducted by Professors Baldus, Woodworth and Pulaski, of over 2,ooo murder cases in Georgia in the 1970s found that, “black defendants charged with killing white victims received a death sentence 22 percent of the time, while white defendants charged with killing black victims received the death penalty in only 3 percent of the cases.” In addition they found that, “defendants charged with killing white victims received the death penalty eleven times more often than defendants charged with killing black victims” (133). After this part of the book, I appreciated that the author adds that disparity is not necessarily a result of discrimination. He offers that “perhaps blacks commit more crime per capita than whites” (149). Sentencing disparities can often be attributed to factors that are race neutral such as severity of the crime and prior criminal record.
I think that Cole’s interpretation of the racism involved in jury selection and sentencing in crack versus cocaine cases is not very credible. In the first instance, America’s system of having a jury of citizens deciding the fate of another is such an important part of our democracy and should not be discredited. Even though a black man on trial may not always have a jury filled up of his peers in the sense that they are all black, his jury is filled up with peers that are all subjected to the same laws that he is. It is a fact that there are disparities in sentencing those accused of distribution/possession of crack when it is just powder cocaine (which is what the white people can afford) cooked up with baking soda (so blacks and Hispanics can afford it). The reason it is more severely punished is because it is more often associated with violent crime.
Cole dedicates his last chapter to proposing solutions to the inequalities in our criminal justice system. First, all Americans must start to question the meaning of our right to formal equality to all. The privileged economic class and non-minorities are given special treatment before the law. By this class not accepting this, those of disadvantaged economic standing or minority (black/Hispanic) status, become distrustful of law enforcement. Cole writes that this is so important because, “Acknowledging that the double standards exist is thus deeply threatening to the status quo” (187). Most importantly, working to restore community is the best way to reach a more equal justice system. Communities are destroyed first by crime, and then by the absence of a substantial number of the black men that lived there before going to prison.
I whole-heartedly believe in Cole’s idea of a community-based justice policy that relies on the community to prevent crime and determine punishment. The importance of the community in providing rehabilitation and measures to keep kids in school is invaluable. He advocates “community policing” which stresses that the police become an integral part of the community in which they live. He also supports “drug court” which sentences a drug offender to a strict drug treatment program and subjects him or her to shaming by those with power in the courts and the community. His theory of shaming, showing real disappoint in the person’s action, but then helping him or her to get on the right path to a productive life, is a very simple idea that works time and time again.
In addition to Cole’s ideas, I think that it is important to make changes in the penalties given to drug offenders. Pushing extremely large numbers of minorities into huge, overcrowded, expensive prisons does much more harm than good to the offender and the general public. Inside prison, it is easier to get together with other criminals and organize more crime from the inside out. Once the person has served his time and is released, a further life of crime is usually all he has to rely on. No one in the community welcomes him with open arms and offers him a job or helps him to get his life on a positive path. Instead of hard time for repeat drug offenders, the community needs to get more involved in prevention and rehabilitation. Community is not going to be able to do this if its resources are cut in half because most of the men are in prison. ·
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|Date:||Mon, 03 Apr 2000 21:11:24 -0700|
|From:||Mary Nash <1portia@GTE.NET>|
|Subject:||Review of No Equal Justice by Mary Nash|
Imagine that you and your spouse are on your way home from visiting relatives in Texas. You are a computer technician and your wife is a sales person. The local police in Houston stop you because you fit the profile of a couple purchasing drugs for distribution. You do not consent to a search, but the officers search the car and your wife's purse anyway. They then bring in a dog to sniff the car and your luggage. Although the police dog does not find anything, you and your wife are still taken to the police station and forced to endure another invasive search. After being detained for several hours, you and your spouse are finally released, but with tickets for failing to follow the seat belt law. If you are white, such an incident is rare, however if you are black, like Kevin and Gwendolyn Moore the couple stopped and detained in Texas this past January, such an occurrence is common because often the only criteria police use when determining that a suspect "fits the profile" is skin color. Although it has been almost forty years since civil rights laws were passed prohibiting racial discrimination, prejudices based on skin color are alive and well and inherent in our criminal justice system. For people of color, especially young Black men, living in large and small cities across this nation, Jim Crow justice is still thriving. In No Equal Justice, David Cole discusses the racial disparities that allow such incidents like the one experienced by the Moores to occur frequently for Black Americans. He also addresses the fact that such blatant discrimination is accepted by the privileged class who he claims would not enjoy so much constitutional protection of their own liberties without inequality before the law.
Cole argues that "while our criminal justice system is explicitly based on the premise and promise of equality before the law, the administration of criminal law-whether by the officer on the beat, the legislature, or the Supreme Court-is in fact predicted on the exploitation of inequality" (5). The reason why equality for all will never be actualized is because of race and class divisions. Today, skin color and economic status makes one a criminal suspect in America. It makes one more likely to be stopped, searched, arrested and tried and convicted. Cole fills his pages with statistics and court cases that clearly articulate that if you are poor and black in America you are much more likely to encounter the criminal justice system than if you are white and middle to upper class. Even though African Americans comprise a small percentage of cities like Columbus, 11% of the population, they account for 90% of the drug arrests. Cole provides similar statistics for other cities to illustrate his point that although minorities, especially Blacks and Hispanics, make up a small percentage of the US population, they are disproportionately represented in our criminal justice system.
Cole lambastes the Supreme Court for allowing racial and class inequality to continue by refusing to hear or favorably rule in cases where clear discrimination has occurred. While discussing indigent defendants and their right to legal counsel under the law as provided in Gideon v. Wainwright, he questions how the Supreme Court could determine that a defendant had adequate counsel when his or her lawyer was drunk in court, slept through the trial or had absolutely no experience in criminal law. He also criticizes police who are motivated by racial prejudices and stereotypes as evidenced by the preponderance of Blacks who are stopped in random searches and roadside checks and the admittance of police officers to the use of racial profiling in locating suspects. And finally, he condemns prosecutors who dismiss potential jurors based on race. Most of Cole's book is spent bemoaning the lack of judicial oversight that allows such discrimination to go unchecked and uncontested.
The amount of statistical data provided by Cole to support his contention that racial and class disparities exist in the criminal justice system is overwhelming. It is hard not to be convinced that racial and class discrimination flourishes in an institution that in theory is supposed to be free from any inequalities. However, a critical reader must wonder what Cole is not reporting statistically. For example, when discussing the death penalty, Cole asserts that as of June 1998, only seven white men had been sentenced to die for killing a black person in the US, whereas a 115 black men had been sentenced to execution for killing white victims. This statistic gives the appearance that blacks are almost 17 times more likely to receive the death penalty for killing a white person than a white man is for killing a black victim. What Cole leaves out is how many Blacks have been convicted for killing a white victim and what percentage did not receive the death penalty. If a larger number of Blacks have been convicted of killing whites than whites have been convicted of killing blacks then the discrepancy is logical and not imbued in racial discrimination.
Another example of Cole's misrepresentation of statistical data is in his numerous accounts of the police picking up suspects based on race. He quotes statistics showing that Black motorists on the New Jersey Turnpike are three times more likely than white drivers to be stopped for traffic offenses. Although only 15% of the violators were Black, they were more than 46% of the drivers stopped by the New Jersey State Police. Cole uses this information to claim "the available evidence suggests that traffic stops are routinely used as a 'pretext' to stop minorities (38)." He offers similar statistics, showing that African Americans, especially men, are more frequently detained than whites in airports, bus terminals and on local roads in cities such as Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Washington, DC. He gives the impression that Black motorists and citizens are often at the mercy of a white police force that believes that the color of their skin is reason enough to suspect them of criminal wrongdoing. However, Cole never mentions the minority composition of such police departments who routinely use race as a sole basis for suspicion. Many police departments in urban cities are largely made up of African American officers. But suggesting that Black police officers target Black citizens has less of a racial impact than suggesting that white cops unfairly use race as probable cause for criminal activity.
Cole has a clear agenda with his book and that is to paint a criminal justice system so imbedded in racial and class discrimination that equal justice is only a pipe dream for anyone who is not white and middle class. Although it can not be disputed that the criminal justice system is racist and classist, after all it does appear that the poor get prison while the rich get richer, is the system so inherently flawed that no racial or class minority can reasonably expect "equal justice before the law?" O.J Simpson was acquitted of the double murder of two white victims despite a preponderance of physical evidence linking him to the crime and a prior history of violence. Granted, it was indisputable that the lead detective on the case was racist and the LAPD had lost evidence, but is it logical to think that the police had motive and time to plant the victim's blood and clothing fibers in Simpson's Bronco before he used it to allude the police across the LA freeway? Simpson had "equal justice before the law." Even though this most likely had more to do with his economic status than his race, certainly he is not the only minority to have a fair chance before the law. But because Cole limits his examples to show only minorities being the victims of the criminal justice system, the readers of No Equal Justice, have no idea of how many Blacks are acquitted of crimes, how many actually commit crimes in comparison to whites, nor how many whites have been subjected to poor legal counsel or the host of other practices that appear to unfairly target minority groups.
No Equal Justice goes beyond being just an indictment of police, prosecutors, judges, legislators and juries. He devotes to the end of each chapter a section on reforming the problems he sees with the American Criminal Justice System. In his argument that racial and class discrimination has created inequality in criminal justice, he shows that such inequality has encouraged crime, impeded criminal law enforcement and further exacerbated racial divisions. Instead of just addressing the results of racial and class disparity, he proposes solutions that not only rectify the problems but encourage mainstream America, that is white middle class society, to no longer tolerate a law enforcement system that "depends on the exploitation of race and class divisions." Cole proposes three solutions. First, he contends that "we must acknowledge the problem (of inequality in today's criminal justice system) by recognizing that we have built the current system on a fiction-that all are equal before the law" (186-7).
Part of this solution is imbedded in Cole's notion of a "double standard" before the law. That is that white America is provided a very different level of constitutional protection than their minority counterparts. But, how is acknowledging the "problem" realistically going to change results? Until white, middle class citizens are disproportionately detained in roadside checks, sentenced to prison and suspected of a crime merely because they are white, this section of society will continue to allow a double standard before the law to prevail. Society has a long history of allowing and promoting scapegoats to ensure a certain level of comfortability, freedom and security.
Cole's second proposed solution suggests that we revamp the current criminal justice system to ensure that the same rights and protections are extended to all, even if it means that the rights now enjoyed by the privileged class are reduced. If the rights of anyone have to be abridged to ensure equality before the law then the solution is no better than the problem it purports to rectify. Equality before the law is supposed to be granted without regard to race, gender, religion, creed or socioeconomic status. The poor and rich alike deserve to benefit from equal protection of the laws. The rights of one group should not be lowered to rectify the problem of inequality. Instead the rights of the disenfranchised need to be increased.
The strength of Cole's solutions lay within his final proposition, which declares "we must identify and develop community-based programs to crime, both at the preventative and punitive stages" (187). This solution emphasizes the importance of community watch groups, reinforcement of community ties to deter crime, the need for community involvement in punishment and rehabilitation and the notion of community shaming. In essence he is proposing that the responsibility of policing fall on the community because he speculates that the community can exact more moral authority over citizens than any law enforcement agency. It is Cole's belief that crime can be curtailed and trust in the criminal justice system restored by community policing strategies that acknowledge community disapproval of certain actions while simultaneously positively restoring the offender to social networks that would deter future criminal conduct.
Cole believes that where we go wrong as a society and end up making crime worse is in our punitive practices. How can a person be expected to be reintegrated into society when he has been labeled a miscreant, striped of such community defining rights as the right to vote and locked up into a community that values crime? Using Japan's criminal justice system as a model, Cole argues for the decentralization of the criminal justice system. Although this will be a hard sell to "tough on crime" proponents, according to Cole, how could society complain if crime rates decreased, the clearance rate increased and the majority of citizens regained faith in the system regulated to protect them all the while reducing the current expenditure for combating crime? Is this just a Utopian dream? Well, perhaps because community policing can lead to vigilantism and extralegal police action towards perceived outsiders. These are downsides to Cole's solution that he neglects to address.
Cole's main point is that "perceptions of race and class disparities in the criminal justice system are at the core of the race and class divisions in our society" (11). The bulk of his book is spent explaining the numerous ways that the criminal justice system exacerbates existing racial tensions. Although he more than adequately points to race and class disparities, his arguments are often skewed because he presents a very one-sided look at the criminal justice system. In addition his arguments almost solely rely on statistical data that can be easily manipulated. The fact remains that equal justice before the law cannot become a reality until we all fight to eradicate practices like racial profiling and unlimited defense spending by wealthy defendants. The sad reality is that in a capitalistic society money matters. Translated: in the criminal justice system he with the most money escapes suspicion and/or incarceration. As Justice Hugo Black once wrote, "There can be no equal justice where the kind of a trial a man gets depends on the amount of money he has." If society can eradicate the economic disparities in the criminal justice system, then perhaps the racial disparities will also be rectified. ·
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|Date:||Mon, 03 Apr 2000 23:19:14 -0500|
|From:||Jacqlyn Larson <jalarso@ILSTU.EDU>|
|Subject:||Review of No Equal Justice|
When one thinks of the Constitution the definition of equality for all is the term that comes to mind. The fact is there remains a disparity between the constitutional rights of minority races and economic classes. The United States Judicial System is set up to maintain equal protection and regulation of the law. Cole’s book, No Equal Justice, examines how our justice system leans in the direction of targeting minorities and the poor.
Cole starts the book by examining how the police single out minorities, specifically blacks, based on stereotypes. The police use a drug-courier profile that targets blacks to search for illegal contraband. In most instances of using this discriminatory system the police would ask if they could search a persons car and if they were denied the search they would be detained for a lengthy amount of time. During this detainment they would either send for a police dog to search for drugs or obtain a warrant. Police as a ploy for investigating crimes, particularly drug offences, commonly uses traffic stops. Traffic stops target blacks and Hispanics disproportionately over whites. In one instance a white driver was stopped and asked how he was doing, he replied not very good. The policeman in-turn replied, could be worse-could be black. If the people who are in charge of enforcing the laws are biased on whom they pull over and the way they are treated, we can not expect a change for the better to be made within the near future.
The police use raids on busses, trains and, in some cases, airports that unreasonably targets minorities. The raids predominantly take place on busses and trains, since minority and poor travelers use this mode of transportation most frequently. In one instance a man was traveling on a bus when one of the biased raids took place. The man, Terrance Bostick, was approached and woken from his sleep by two police officers standing above him. The police asked if they could search his bag and the twenty-eight year old black man, agreed. When the officers searched his bag they found a pound of cocaine. When the man was charged with drug possession he challenged the police officers conduct, suggesting that it was unconstitutional. He implied that the police had seized him since he was cornered at the back of the bus. The police had admitted that there was no reasonable suspicion they had for searching Bostick. Since the Supreme Court previously ruled that a seizure needs to contain some degree of individualized suspicion, Bostick’s case should have been dropped. The Supreme Court did not deem this way, instead the suggestion was made that Bostick may not have felt free to leave but that was not the fault of the police. Though the police were standing over him, blocking his exist, and displaying badges and guns was not enough for the Supreme Court to believe an unconstitutional matter had occurred. The Supreme Court continues to uphold stops and raids that are clearly unconstitutional, which give a green light to dishonest police work. The result of the Bostick case is that police are free to engage in searches where it is difficult for citizens to refuse to cooperate.
The question on many minds is why would citizens let the police search them if they knew they were possessing illegal contraband? The reason so many people, like Bostick, agree to such searches, may be because they are uneducated on their constitutional rights. Another reason may be for the fact that minority races believe they do not have say regardless. They may be detained and asked if they can be searched, if they say no then they would be beat up and searched nevertheless. If the police are able to use a negative answer against an individual then that defeats the purpose of giving the right to say no. The Supreme Court has not specifically given a concrete definition of what is a justifiable search. They have said that just saying no does not constitute a search, but has not ruled whether a refusal can be accepted as a justification for nonconsensual stop and search. When challenges are made to the equality among race and class, most often the courts look the other way.
The people in the inner city also face a no-win situation. They are either the targets for crime or the police target them. In Alex Koltowitz book, There are no children here; he describes how people in inner city housing are scared to call the police for fear of the gangs, but remain scared if they do not. There have been many instances that these people have came across corrupt police. The method policing should accomplish, is to restore the legitimacy of law and the strength of the community. Since the police are able to do random stops this gives them discretion to be abusive, which creates hostility and distrust for the police. That is why it is a no-win situation because innocent people want crimes to stop, but they do not trust the police.
Another dilemma in our system is that peremptory strikes are predominantly used against blacks. The prosecutor should be forced to defend the reason for a strike with reasonable grounds for doing so. There is a long history of excluding blacks from juries, which may be an important reason why blacks feel the justice system is biased. The system needs to halt the use of race-biased strikes and eliminate preemptory strikes altogether. Another imperative reason blacks are skeptical of the judicial system is because when a black man kills a white man his sentence is usually the death penalty, opposed to whites who kill black victims.
The next main issue that Cole addresses is the principle of equal opportunity. The Sixth Amendment gives indigent defendants the assistance of a lawyer in all serious criminal trials. It requires the government to pay for a lawyer when the defendant can not afford one. The vast majority of criminal defendants are too poor to hire an attorney. State-appointed attorneys defend three-quarters of all inmates in state prison. In many cases attorneys would show up the day of the trial for the mere fact that there is a tremendous case overload. Attorneys that were appointed represented some defendants with there expertise in a different field. The state must provide counsel for only the trial and first appeal, so there is not such a distinct advantage for the rich. The problem with this is that there are nine stages of an appeal and an attorney is only required to attend the initial appeal. In the case Douglas v. California, Douglas suggested that indigent defendants should be able to have the same advantages as a wealthier person by having a lawyer present at all stages of an appeal. The Supreme Court struck this down stating that the right to an attorney is stopped after the first appeal. Thus, virtually the only defendants who are assured legal representation throughout all stages of a trial are those who hire a private attorney. Our judicial system offers opportunities and civil liberties to those that can afford them and denies them to those who cannot. Indigent defendants spend years in jail and lose their lives because the public is unwilling to provide them with adequate representation. There cannot be equal justice where the kind of trial one gets depends upon the amount of money one has.
Cole suggests several obstacles that hinder reform. The first issue he approaches is that of affirmative action. He states that a lot of good arguments exist for affirmative action, but not on the criminal justice level. The support for affirmative action in criminal law is virtually nonexistent. Affirmative action is supported strongly in the areas of education, work, and contracting. The second issue that he addresses is reducing disparities in treatment of criminal defendants may increase the disparities among the victims. He makes the argument that criminal law is founded on formal equality and punishment is to be based on the crime not on ones status. Cole comes up with three main solutions to the inequality of the United States Criminal Justice system. The first is that we must acknowledge that the system is built upon fiction with the story line being that all are equal before the law. The second solution is that the double standards in our system need to be demolished, even if it reduces rights that are now enjoyed by the privileged. The third solution is developing a community-based response to crime both at the punitive and preventive stages. This is the idea of the community prevention of crime and determining the punishment.
Cole has many valid arguments showing the U.S. Judicial System is racially and economically discriminative. He suggests misconduct by the police and courts that can be changed if the community is willing to take the step. I believe that the community is the element that will change the inequality that exists in the judicial system. I believe that if the police officers are forced to stop discriminating against minorities and attorneys go through all the steps of the trial and appeal with a defendant, it would signify a step narrowing the discrimination gap. ·
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|Date:||Wed, 05 Apr 2000 19:05:47 -0500|
|From:||Paul Herrick Peterson <phpeter@MAIL.ILSTU.EDU>|
|Subject:||Re: Review of No Equal Justice by Mary Nash|
I really don't have much to say about this review, mostly due to time restraints, but there are a few issues that should be addressed.
1. I would like to say I resent the statement made implying that the middle class, or the "privileged people",(paragraph #1 & #8) are blatantly racist or have no regard for the loss of constitutional rights to any of our law abiding citizens. I would further like to say that blanket statements of ignorance when dealing with these racial issues, whether they are made by Cole or Mary Nash, are what drive wedges between the people of this country who do want to make change possible.
2. This paper, via Coles ideas, tries to also strip the black criminals of social responsibility. By showing the statistics of pop/crime arrests, this is supposed prove that blacks are being persecuted everywhere, especially in the inner cities. I know it is a suprising notion, but do you think that the blacks arrested, may have actually committed the crimes? Maybe the truth is that there is a disproportionate amount of criminals in the black communities.
3. Also since blacks mostly commit crimes against people in there own communities, if the system was truly as "racist " as was implied in the review, wouldn't the justice system just let it happen? Wouldn't the police just allow them to torment, and corrupt the black communities? I think the system does it best to implement justice, and has proven itself worthy in a number of landmark cases that spawned, an propelled the civil rights movement.
4. After just reading Gideon v. Wainwright, Mary's third paragraph seems a bit lost. Firstly, the supreme court on March 18, 1963, decided that the poor and indigent were not capable of fully understanding what was happening at trial, and thusly should be afforded, by the state, a lawyer in all proceedings. After getting a good read out of this case, I can understand how the Supreme Court could be deemed prejudice, and biased. Also, I would like to mention that without the Supreme Court that was damned in the review, we as americans would not have many of the rights that we "all" appreciate under the constitution and the law.
5. I applaud the Mary for pointing out the the statistical data may not give credence to the argument made by Cole. It seems that the Stats provided were there not to discuss truth, and to work out problems, but to further his agenda and to sell his book and I appreciate the acknowledgment of this by Mary.
Paul H Peterson
|Date:||Thu, 13 Apr 2000 16:25:28 -0500|
|From:||David Hurn <dahurn@ILSTU.EDU>|
|Subject:||Re: Mary Nash Review: "No Equal Justice" By David Cole|
As I review about the class discussion and read Mary Nash's book review 'No Equal Justice: Race and the Class in the American Criminal Justice System' by David Cole. I'm reminded by a joke the great comedian Richard Pryor told 'Yes! There is justice in America, look in all the courts and prisons that's all you see is JUST US!
Of course the joke is funny, but the realism behind the joke isn't a laughing matter. Nash's attempt to find flaws in Cole's statistical reports and his information about the injustice of the judicial system, is flawed in her own attempt to critique the obvious injustices of a race of people and a class of people.
Nash reports herself as a 'critical reader' and 'wonder' what Cole is not reporting statistically.' She also asserts that 'If a larger number of Blacks have been convicted of killing whites than whites have been convicted of killing blacks then the discrepancy is logical and not imbued in racial discrimination.' That was the finding of the June 1998 research, that 'only' seven white men had been sentenced to die for killing a black person and 115 black men had been sentenced to die for killing a white victim, regardless of any other statistical data 17 times more likely, is a good percentage to use to prove the unjust sentencing of African Americans when it involves a white person.
The New Jersey Turnpike, was a proven issue in summer of 1999, that African Americans are racially profiled. This issue was proven when the New Jersey State Chief of State Troopers admitted to using racial profiling and he lost his job. What is Nash trying to refute about the New Jersey Turnpike, the truth?
Nash wrote a cynical remark about the O.J. Simpson trial and questioned the verdict. 'Granted, it was indisputable that the lead detective on the case was racist and the LAPD had lost evidence, but is it logical to think that the police had motive and time to plant the victim's blood and clothing fibers in Simpson's Bronco etc. Once again her critique is flawed. Of course a real logical person would think that a racist cop and one of the most proven racist law enforcement agency in the United States would place all the evidence in the Bronco. Have we forgot about the Rodney King, beating and the LA riots and the killing of unarmed African American males who was murdered by the L.A.P.D?
Even though Nash's review was commendable and her approach to raise issues about the obvious injustices that she contends is only based in questionable statistical data is realistic and is occurring. Nash loses credibility by the current events that she either forgot about or didn't care to read about.
Cole's solution to these issues is realistic and obtainable probably when Warp drive is created. I have a question if America really believe that 'all men are created equal' and justice is blind, then why are the courts, jails, prisons filled with JUST US!
|Date:||Fri, 14 Apr 2000 10:53:00 -0500|
|From:||Paul Herrick Peterson <phpeter@MAIL.ILSTU.EDU>|
|Subject:||Re: Mary Nash Review: "No Equal Justice" By David Cole|
I feel sorry for David Hurn right now. Here is a man who will live the rest of his life believing that around every corner, there is an injustice. That behind every white smile, there is a mumbling of racial slurs and true hatred. That behind every government program that has been used to help the ever slumping black community, there is a white mail there devising the end of their existence.
There is a new racism is america that will catch like a wild fire because it is easier than personal responsibility. This racism will not be one of lynching, or murderous coups. IT will be a movement to hate the system, the law, the white man, and corporate america. It will be a racism that will hold true the core belief that everything not black should be boycotted and shunned. This movement is growing. The fire will start with words from David, and then spread to the ears and minds of the younger generations who will discover it is easier to sit back, chastise and blame, rather than act on the reality of true progress and equality. This will certainly be disagreed with by some of the other people in my class, but the new racism in America does not have a white face on it. Now I have talked with others, and they have said that David's experiences as an "older" black man have molded these beliefs. I suppose in some fashion that was going to make them all right, but would you accept that same excuse from a 40 y/o white man. If he was prejudice, or even racist, would you all except the poor an pitiful excuse of past experiences as a base for his racism? I certainly wouldn't. Ignorance is ignorance, and it can't be disguised by the color of anyone's skin. I have sat back and listened in class as we all talk about the blacks, indians, hispanics, latinos, asians, and whatever other group pops up, but we never discuss the growing racism against whites. This is a true racism too, and most any white male will attest to this.
My point may have been skewed a bit in my ramblings, but the reality is that you can not solve racism and prejudice against blacks with reverse racism and prejudice towards whites. That is just going to throw us all in a vicious circle of hate and deceit that will lengthen the time of correction for these very real issues in america. Unlike like David, I know that there is true equality on the horizon. I may differ with most in the class on the means of achieving this harmony and equality of race and gender, but the most important thing is that we all still believe that is can be done. We all still believe that everyone is equal, and that nobody should be discriminated against. I hope that what I have said can come across not as points of argument against anyone, but just as points to ponder. The point of this class, I believe, is to learn and appreciate the beliefs and ideas of others. Here is my two cents.
|Date:||Tue, 02 May 2000 22:07:45 -0400 (EDT)|
|Subject:||Unequal Justice reviewed by Shawna Stewart|
No Equal Justice By David Cole The New Press, 1999 Reviewed by Shawna Stewart
At one point in his or her life, everyone has had a complaint about the justice system in America. Either they have had a wrongdoing done to them, a close family member, or a friend. For some, it is just merely studying the system, which points out the failures. I think it is common sense and public sentiment that the system is by no means perfect. For some it becomes more apparent when there is an additional issue that is clouding their true freedom for justice, like race or class. David Cole illustrates the imperfections in our current system by stating specific examples, facts, citations, and stories. He furthers his argument of the imperfections by stating that these not only occur in our system, but also they occur more often and readily to those who are poor and to those who are black.
Cole begins this book by illustrating the current public sentiment towards the judicial system by using the case of OJ Simpson as a prime example of a division based upon race. The blacks celebrated the fact that OJ was found not guilty, and whites shook their head in disbelief as a system that had hard evidence against a man for murder walked away a free man. The blacks felt this was a repayment and a long awaited victory for the oppression they have dealt with throughout their lives. Unfortunately, this was hardly a typical case. Simpson was a rich, famous, black man who had money. This allowed him to have a good lawyer that could fairly represent him, it also allowed him to have a jury closer to his peers, 9 members were black, and it also worked to his advantage since the detective responsible for obtaining evidence was publicly known to be racist.
In a regular courtroom, this would not occur according to Cole. Since the majority of the black populations that is convicted of crimes are poor, they are not allowed the same freedom and advantage of having a lawyer that is capable of representing their true case. Cole begins to investigate this portion of the justice system by looking at those who are not afforded proper counsel. Often the counsel that is represented is incompetent and even states evidence where some have been drunk or not even show up to represent their clients until the day of the trial. In the famous case of Gideon v Wainwright, it was held by the Supreme Court that the government is responsible for providing the defendant with a lawyer in order to be consistent with their Constitutional rights. However, it is in the opinion of the author that this is a double standard made by the justice system because as illustrated above, the counsel that is afforded to the indigent is often not effective assistance.
Another issue that Cole brings up about the injustices of the system is about pretext stops or racial profiling. This is the idea that an individual is pulled over by the police or searched by them on the suspicion of race not an actual crime. For example if a black man was driving in a white neighborhood or in a fancy care, he would be stopped based on the assumption that he was going to commit a crime or he already had on the basis that he was black, which plays into typical stereotypes of today's society. Cole represented this data by stating statistics that in Florida nearly 70% of cars stopped were black or Hispanic, and more than 80% of cars searched were driven by blacks and Hispanics (39).
These facts are alarming and most citizens would probably disregard them and say they weren't true. Being a white woman, I would probably disagree with the idea that police are still harassing people simply because of their skin color, however I have never experienced this, so I can't say I can totally dismiss it. On the other hand, if I were to defend the police, the only thing I can say about this type of situation would be the fact that the police are working in an area in which they are looking out for the citizens of that particular area. Cole explains a little bit about this theory by stating that a black man may be pulled over in an all white neighborhood due to the fact that he seems out of place. The police are there to protect the neighbors and look out for their interests, and unfortunately questioning a black man in their neighborhood may be a part of their interests. Another injustice that is seen in our system is the fact that we are entitled to a jury of our peers when being tried for a crime, but is it really a jury of our peers? Cole argues that poor people and black people do not go up against a jury of people like themselves. If an individual has the opportunity to sit on a jury and miss work or the fact that maybe they don't work than they really don't have anything in common with the poor. History has shown that blacks are less likely to sit on juries, and even were not allowed by some states. No black person even sat on a jury until 1860 (105). Even after that, jury polls were done that consistently excluded blacks from sitting on them. This type of discrimination does not allow for a black individual to be truly judged by peers based on the fact that there are racial tensions and stereotyping among the white population. I would argue that while it is true that neither the poor nor the black rarely have a jury of their peers, either do middle class citizens. Not only is the jury usually people who can afford to take of work, but more importantly people who are either retired or wealthy enough not to work. The average person will try to get out of serving on a jury by any means necessary. While we pride our selves on being a nation of equality and democracy, people don't want to have to take time from their busy life to go to court for $10 a day. So with this in mind, it can be held true that the average, middle class white male would not be tried by a jury of their peers. These people would probably be older, have more conservative viewpoints, and wealthier.
Punishment is an issue that is also examined by the race issue. Study of race and the death penalty show that defendants who kill white victims are more likely to receive the death penalty than those who kill black victims (132). In addition, there are more black people in jail or sitting on death row than whites. I would have to criticize this point by stating the fact that a lot of crimes that are done are black on black crimes, therefore it would justifiable in showing why there are more blacks in prison and why it is more likely for the death penalty to be more common with murder of black individuals. I think Cole could have brought in statistics here that would help to separate this issue and elaborate more on the idea why these statistics are true.
Cole offers solutions for overcoming these injustices. The first is the fact that a problem has to be acknowledged before it can be solved (187). People have to realize that although the system is founded on the principles of equality, there is a certain amount of inequality and disparage among race and class. The second solution is to restore legitimacy. People have to believe that they will be looked at as equal and restore faith and trust in the system. The third idea is restoring the community. By allowing individuals to interact in a productive community would help to eliminate problems before they began. A strong sense of guidance and support from those around you can give you the drive to overcome problems. This is one of the ideas that I agree with Cole the most. He explains how providing individuals with resources can help them to prevent crime in their neighborhood and help them to restore faith in the justice system. I think the idea of education for individuals to help to keep them away from crime, in addition to teaching blacks and the poor what to do if they are stopped without just cause would be a small step in helping to overcome stereotypes. If a community is dedicated to keeping itself clean and prosperous, it will help to bring up a new generation that will have strong values and morals that can lead to ridding the population of stereotypes and misguided ideas about race.
I found Cole's book to be informative and was more persuaded at the fact that he cited examples and statistics to back up his ideas and theories. While I agree with the idea that there are injustices within the system itself, I find myself not wanting to believe that these injustices are greater to those of a minority race or lower income family. I don't think anyone who wants to believe that we live in a democratic society can take that information lightly. While I don't doubt that it does happen, I also find myself not wanting to come down from my ideals to realize the reality of America. ·
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|Date:||Wed, 10 May 2000 02:31:52 -0500|
|From:||David Hurn <dahurn@ILSTU.EDU>|
|Subject:||Re: David Cole book: "No Equal Justice"|
David Cole, No Equal Justice reviewed by David Hurn
I remember years ago, when I was in High School. I tried out for the varsity football team for the position of full back. In all honesty, I thought I was a good athlete, doing something that would make my parents, and peers admire me for the great accomplishment of making the team. As the long hot summer practices lingered and the inevitable day of "The Cut" I knew my hard long sacrifices of coming to practice would be rewarded. My positive team spirit, being on time, knowing the plays, and contributing to good sportsman conduct was good enough for me to start, so I thought. The day of the cut, as I ran towards the locker room reassured and cocky, I looked to see my name as the starting full back for the MacArthur Generals. No!! I was second string for the MacArthur Generals. As I turned my equipment in and vowed never to play football again, this macho, primitive sport again, I always wondered did I do the right thing.
In 1990, at my ten-year class reunion, I went to Coach Smith, and asked him about that day, (only after a considerable amount of mind-altering beverages). Coach Smith, a balding freckled headed blue-eyed, potbelly egotistical son of #8$% said " Hurn! You never knew how to get down and dirty" you was always nice!
You carried the tune but you never blew the horn! In David Cole's book "No Equal Justice, Race and Class in the American Criminal Justice System”, gives credible arguments showing the inequalities in the judicial system by the police officers, the Public defenders office and the court system. My critique of Cole's book is that he doesn't get down and dirty!
Even though he makes some very good observations and good statistical data he just don't make the grade to be a starter on my team. Cole examines the Forth Amendment of Search and Seizures. He tells the story of Terrance Bostick, a African American man who fell asleep on the back of the bus only to be awakened by two white officers, requesting to shake him down (search his bag). Giving the officers permission to shake him down and his bag, the officers confiscated a pound of cocaine. Bostick, convicted of possession, argued in front of the United Supreme Court, that the conduct of the officers violated his civil rights and his case should be thrown out. The U.S. Supreme Court turned a blind eye to his argument and upheld the conviction.
Not knowing the full details of the case, I can see circumstances that could be very questionable on the action of the police officers. The situation of Mr. Bostick, with him being a black man on the bus with two white officers, with guns, mace and night sticks, would give any person knowing the history of the police towards African-Americans permission to search their bags. I think a credible defense would be a form of duress.
Cole, gives data concerning the over crowding of the system, "In 1996, one in three young black men between the ages of 20 and 29 was on probation, parole or in prison (pg. 151). He also writes " perhaps blacks commit more crime per capita than whites" (149). I interpret, this statement as meaning, poor people who happen to be black commit more crime per capita, because of the injustices of the system that is designed to provoke them to use poor judgment, to survive.
In the last chapter Cole, gives his solution to resolving racial tensions and the inequalities of the judicial system. His first solution is to "Acknowledging that the double standards exist is through deeply threatening to the status quo" 187). Secondly, developing a "community-policing " was the officers live in the neighborhood and police his neighborhood. The theory of shaming, showing real disappoints in the person's action but counseling them in problems.
Reading David Cole's book was a nice read with a good data and observations. He followed the plan executed some realistic theories. He also recognized the inequalities of the judicial system and the profiling of the minority groups. However, he doesn't get down and dirty something so emotional and intrinsically wrong, he writes so nice. He could have told how police, look for crime in the minority neighborhoods and provoke the young minority men to make sure that a crime is committed. Police brutality, isn't going to go away after so many years of beating minorities for many years. The police need to regain the trust of the neighborhood and the people of the neighborhood. The statistical data was nice, but he doesn't show how a lower economic class couldn't support a 100 billion-dollar dope industry. He doesn't show how over 65% of drug dealers and users incarcerated still cannot support a 100 billion dollar drug industry. For example, if 80% of those who are incarcerated for drug trafficking should represent at least 25% of the drug trade.
So why are so many African-American males incarcerated for drug trafficking? Law enforcement officers target the minority community for the social ills of America instead of targeting the real drug traffickers, manufactures and buyers.
Another issue Cole reviews is the high crime rate in the minority communities. The argument of minority policing minority communities doesn’t work because in the large urban cities the crime rate is higher with the large minority police force.
This is only due to the distrust of the police, this distrust works against the officers making their job harder and more difficult.
Cole rides the bench of informing the reader of problems of the inequalities of the court system towards minorities and the poor. He also gives a nice approach to solving the problems of inequalities. I personally would recommend this book to those who would like to put racism in their nice little social economic theoretical box and apply their pretty methods. However for a person who lives this life I say he has the tune, know blow the horn!
|Date:||Tue, 04 Apr 2000 11:10:39 -0500|
|From:||Amy Smith <amsmith4@ILSTU.EDU>|
|Subject:||Re: Molly Sutter's review of No Equal Justice|
> In addition to Cole’s ideas, I think that it is important to make
>changes in the penalties given to drug offenders. Pushing extremely large >numbers of minorities into huge, overcrowded, expensive prisons does much more >harm than good to the offender and the general public. Inside prison, it is >easier to get together with other criminals and organize more crime from the >inside out. Once the person has served his time and is released, a further
>life of crime is usually all he has to rely on. No one in the community >welcomes him with open arms and offers him a job or helps him to get his life >on a positive path. Instead of hard time for repeat drug offenders, the >community needs to get more involved in prevention and rehabilitation. >Community is not going to be able to do this if its resources are cut in half >because most of the men are in prison.
I think Molly makes a really good point here. The interconnected cycles of poverty, drug addiction, crime and prison won't be broken by filling the prisons and leaving children with-out role models. Public funds spent on prisons could do so much more good if put towards prevention and treatment. I agree that communities suffer a great deal from the resource drain off imprisonment. What kind of future can a child see for himself if his father, uncles, bothers and cousins are all in prison? He may very well see no future for himself at all.