Winds Of Change In America’s Criminal Justice System

The American justice system has always been accused of being unfavorable towards minorities, especially to the black population of our society. A positive change can be seen in recent years, however, according to Philip Smith, editor and chief correspondent of a media project called “Drug Reporter” that is endorsed by the Independent Media Institute. His article, “4 Reasons for a Surprising Change in Racial Incarceration Trendlines,” noted a recent trend of gradual decline in incarceration rate of the black population compared to the rate of white population; indicating a sharp decrease in racial disparities in the United States justice system. Moreover, Bryan Stevenson’s book Just Mercy, closely examines mass imprisonment and severe punishment in America, along with the unjust system. This causes if we let “fear, anger and distance” to take over our conscience about the way we treat the most helpless population of our society (Stevenson 14). This essay will discuss how the article illustrates a new positive change in the American justice system through the decreasing trend in racial disparities; exploring its abstract, usage of ethical and logical appeals, and concurrently comparing the article with the book Just Mercy. To summarize, the article describes four reasons behind the continuously diminishing trend of racial discrepancies in the American justice system.

Firstly, white Americans nowadays are more likely to be imprisoned than black Americans. This is because of frequent drug offenses involving methamphetamines, heroin, and prescription opioid, all which are popular among the white demographic. Next, white Americans have experienced a decline of socioeconomic prospects over the past few decades. The experience of poverty is still very new to them, resulting in a sudden spike of drug abuse, property crime, and thus higher incarceration rate. Additionally, there have been numerous judicial reforms to put a brake on mass confinement which mostly took effect in the big cities housing more black population, whilst nothing notable happened in the conservative rural areas where more of the white population resides. Finally, the overall crime rate has been on a steep decline over the last decade or so, affecting the imprisonment rate of the black population more than that of the white population, because historically, African Americans are the ones more likely to be arrested in the first place. The article successfully used the ethical appeal by establishing the credibility of the author and also managed to incorporate statistical data emphasizing the logical appeal towards the audience. The author Philip Smith is an accomplished writer specializing in drug abuse, with more than twenty years of experience as a drug policy journalist. Besides, he has received awards on multiple occasions, one of them is the Drug Policy Alliance’s Edwin M. Brecher Award for Excellence in Media in 2013 (Smith).

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On the other hand, the author logically used statistics and data as he mentions, “the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics and the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting system and found that between 2000 and 2015, the incarceration rate for black men dropped by nearly a quarter (24 percent), while the white male incarceration rate bumped up slightly” (Smith). His article also talks about the sharp decline of black female detention rates by almost 50 percent, while the white female detention rate increasing by 53 percent; all during the period of first 15 years of this century (Smith). In contrast, Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy mentions about the increase in number of prison population from 300,000 in the 1970s to 2.3 million in the 2000s; and also remarks a disturbing fact by saying that one in every three black male babies born in the 21st century is likely to be jailed (Stevenson 15). In addition, the writer Smith has a strong core argument, stating that there has been an ongoing trend showing a sharp decline in racial discrepancies towards the black population in the American justice system. He continues to back his claims with intelligent reasoning and substantial use of credible sources to establish those facts. The article mentions four different reasons behind the positive changes regarding racial disparities in the justice system and explained these reasons thoroughly as well.

Phillip Smith puts the whole argument into perspective by providing the continuously proportional reduction of black and white imprisonment rate over the years, “Still, that 5:1 ratio for black vs. white male incarceration rates in 2015 was an 8:1 ratio 15 years earlier. Likewise, that 2:1 ration for black vs. white female incarceration rates was a 6:1 ratio in 2000” (Smith). However, while comparing the book Just Mercy and Phillip Smith’s article, both similarities and differences can be found in their texts. The call for action in both sources is the same, to attain racial equality in the United States justice system. Both sources talk about African American confinement, including the women and juvenile convicts who suffer from the unfair justice system of the United States. In the book, Just Mercy, writer and protagonist Stevenson provides the readers with historical context as well as his moral stance by mentioning, minorities particularly African Americans are more likely to get a death sentence than the white Americans (Stevenson 142). The book focuses on the journey of a lawyer trying to provide justice for an innocent black man, who not only fell victim to the racial injustice of the American justice system but also the American society. On the other hand, Phillip Smith provides a comparative analogy between the black and white confinement rates, using a rather optimistic approach which is somewhat missing in his book Just Mercy. The article shows its optimism by saying, “black people are incarcerated at a rate five times higher than that of white people — but the disparities are decreasing, and there are a number of interesting reasons behind the trend” (Smith).

In conclusion, it can be said that Phillip Smith’s article “4 Reasons for a Surprising Change in Racial Incarceration Trendlines”, successfully demonstrated a progressive trend in the American justice system. The trend shows an overall decrease in black incarceration over the years compared to white incarceration. This does not mean the inequality of the justice system has gone away, rather it gives us the motivation to stand firm and fight for justice even harder than ever before. The United States justice system still has a long way to go in ensuring equal justice for all, regardless of race or color. However, this new phenomenon gives us the courage to dream, to dream about a future where the color of one’s skin will not be the determinant of earning justice. 

US Police Brutality And African Americans

Police brutality is a major issue in the United States, with its target against African Americans being a longstanding problem. The history of police brutality closely relates to racism and discrimination in America. Many factors, such as institutional racism, poverty, education, and even the drug war, contribute to this issue. With these factors combined, there is an increased risk of violence from law enforcement officials toward African Americans. According to Schwartz and Jahn (2020), African Americans are three times more likely to be killed by police officers than white people in the US. Although their population share is only 13%, this figure reflects the disproportionate number of casualties as represented in police action. A recent report indicates that these statistics of people with minority identities killed by law enforcement officials have changed.

Opponents argue that police brutality against African Americans does not exist. Still, the facts prove that a black person is more likely to die at the hands of a police officer than someone of another race. While police are important to maintain public safety and put an end to crimes, most police officers across the US often use force or engage in an aggressive style of policing, which leads to cases of police brutality against minorities and citizens.

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Decades of systemic bias have led to this issue, creating tensions within law enforcement agencies and minority communities. In America, where you are born defines who you are. But other groups of people have come to the United States in significant numbers as well. People from all backgrounds come to this country for work and opportunity. Primarily, the US has close to 300 million residents that identify as minorities, and this number is increasing every day. Schwartz (2020) predicates that Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence laid the foundation for America by revealing that all people are created equal and deserve the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Despite America being founded on this powerful declaration, minorities live in fear, afraid of the system and how it has oppressed them in the past. America must realize the importance of equal rights because it is what our country was founded on and what civil rights leaders like Rosa Parks have fought for. The status quo is more akin to slavery in this sense, so our nation must stand for change and equality.

There is an issue with racial profiling in policing, and has been for a long time. Racial profiling in policing is a form of racism that law enforcement institutions have used to target African Americans. There have been many cases where innocent civilians have been shot and killed by police officers who were racially profiling them. In recent years, there have been more cases where police officers are being arrested and charged with crimes because they were racially profiling their victims. Racial profiling in policing has led to the creation of the Black Lives Matter movement. This movement was created in response to what they saw as a systematic failure on behalf of law enforcement institutions to protect African Americans from police brutality. Law enforcement institutions often use racial profiling as an excuse for their actions, and it is also one of the most common forms of police brutality against African Americans. African Americans are often considered criminals, even when not committing any crime. It allows police to take advantage of minority groups, particularly black people, leading to more brutality.

Because racism exists worldwide, police officers automatically assume that anyone who is not white or middle-class is suspicious. It leads to many injustices and problems. Graham et al. (2020, 561) affirm that police use stop-and-frisk and racial profiling to help them identify more easily people who are in the wrong. If police officers were not allowed to stop someone based on them looking suspicious, the shootings of unarmed minorities would not be as likely. Police shoot many unarmed minorities because a law enforcement officer thought the person was reaching for their gun and might use it. In some cases, suspects are reaching for the paperwork that police need to identify them. Philando Castile was fatally shot in 2016 when he reached for his wallet while an officer pulled him over. Black people are entitled to the same fair treatment as everyone else because the constitution guarantees equal rights. There is great concern with the rate of unjustified shootings of unarmed black people by law enforcement forces, as seen in the spread and impact that has been felt by both communities, resulting in panic and fear. With criminal justice reform, there is a way to bring justice to minority groups who feel they are not being heard. Many concerns surrounding the events frequently happen in communities of color. It is shocking to learn how often the police severely abuse their authority and make matters worse by killing innocent civilians in cold blood, which can instigate community-wide reactions of unrest and turmoil.

A solution to this issue might be to get in touch with people not in the same culture as you so that you can learn more about their experiences. A police officer being scared of the person they are pulling over, detaining, or questioning can cause the officer to focus more on the fear of the following procedure. It causes black people to be afraid of the police officers, which could lead to unnecessary violence and death or injury at worst. Being pro-black or pro-police are two separate things. There are many reasons why minority and police communities feel fear, hatred, and sadness, but racial tension is the most prominent part of it all. Americans need to learn and interact with people that are different both racially and sociologically.

Additionally, constructive dialogues can facilitate dialogue without the worry of community unrest. As law enforcement members, they are responsible for making each other better and holding each other accountable for their mistakes in the field. According to Reynolds-Stenson (2018, p. 56), they are also responsible as a community for preventing acts of rioting or slandering police officers and supporting peaceful protests. Law enforcement officers should not be afraid of their communities. When they feel they cannot perform their duties without the fear of attacks, trust in the community decreases, and more people die until the tension between the two towns can be resolved. Moreover, police officers should be trained to be able to handle pressure as well as dangerous situations. When communities start perceiving these officers as untrained and hysterical, it can lead to many problems. It is dangerous to be a police officer, and they may need to make tough decisions in life-threatening situations. However, killing those who are violent despite the inability to bring them into custody before they leave for good is not fair for society and can have detrimental consequences.

Black people are often targeted for punitive measures and punishments, but it does not have to be that way. When these threats come from law enforcement, we subconsciously learn to fear our skin color. The issue police officers have with African-Americans stems from mass incarceration, brutalization of black people, and other damaging policies (Walsh, 2021). Officers know that African-Americans are only a small minority in the population, but they carry a great deal of influence due to their influence on culture. Minority races in the US are afraid due to their history of being oppressed by police officers, and police officers may not realize how they are prejudiced because such racism has been a part of our society for so long. It makes sense that you would choose a choice if the person you are walking next to looks as if they will survive.

An example would be if a Caucasian person were given a choice to walk beside a black man or a white man of the same height and weight, the person would almost always choose to walk beside the white man. Many people are prejudiced, but they do not realize it. Although the public trusts law enforcement, they use their position of authority to make these relationships potentially more difficult. The sad part of the shootings is that they happen, but unfortunately, the factors that lead to their deaths will go unnoticed by everyone else. African American communities have been experiencing grief and pain due to the injustice of systematic racism, an issue in the US and a reality globally. Every global citizen has to stand with these communities as they endure such moments and change their living conditions.

There are many effective solutions to police brutality, such as resolving racial profiling and holding officers accountable. Unity in protests, officers wearing body cams, putting hands up at all times, and always listening to police officers are other examples. Unity in peaceful protests by white and black communities will show that the police force is not just racist but also somewhat invincible in its power. If a better police training curriculum can be made, that would also help. One way is by eliminating the over-representation of black people in traffic stops and arrests through racial profiling, which causes much more harm than good (Hong, 2017, p. 199). All people of a certain race are stopped and frisked at a higher rate than members of other races, even when they are less likely to commit a crime or be guilty.

However, the opposing view might say this is because black people are more likely to be guilty of certain crimes. However, statistics show otherwise, with more white Americans found to possess weapons than their black counterparts. If police officers were to look at the numbers instead of a person’s race, police brutality cases would be minimal. The difference is that not just the police force but also white communities must hold officers accountable for what they do (Ray, 2020). When mistakes are made, many organizations often focus on making sure that consequences happen. It should not be up to the individual to determine what is best for them, and it should also apply to law enforcement. Police officers should lead by example. In a professional capacity, ensuring that your team is accountable for their actions is about setting desired performance standards and ensuring they are met to find transparency. Also, shortening the training period and involving more risk-based activities in an officer’s training is a good idea. Some people believe that VR will enhance the role-playing experience of training. The sergeant can be immersed in a virtual reality setting to get an idea of what it would feel like in-game. It could help them make better decisions on the fly.

Furthermore, community members are working together to show that enough is enough with police brutality. One way they do this is through protests, which help spread awareness and public accountability, thus helping to raise awareness of what is happening in the communities and leading to a different outcome for those hurt by these issues. Some might say that riots are not powerful but are not peaceful. Protests can have considerably more impact. Also, police officers should wear body cameras. Ideally, using body cameras is beneficial not only for the police but also for civilians; people who know what kind of force is used by the police are less likely to commit crimes themselves.

In conclusion, if police officers wear body cameras, the practice would be fairer and more transparent. Body cameras help convict civilians, police, and anyone else of unjust crimes. Training classes that teach minorities how to interact with police, both ways, so that they may feel safer while also maintaining their safety is significant. Minority individuals should heed caution when dealing with law enforcement for many reasons, especially because minority individuals are deemed as suspicious, more likely to be victims of brutality, or seen as the perpetrator in any circumstances (Levinson-King, 2020). Armed or unarmed in America, black people are often shot dead by the police. It happens way too often and is a dangerous trend. If an unarmed black man has their hands up, they should state that their driver’s license is in his wallet before turning them over.

Police officers often tell those arrested not to resist and follow the rules to ensure everyone can stay safe. As it turns out, people in custody never want to be a part of something that risks their life for no reason. If proper steps were taken, this would help with relations between the police and the community. Decreasing police violence may seem daunting, but progress has been inevitable. There are many grassroots efforts put into action all over the world that help to bring equality to society as a whole.

Ultimately, minority communities are disproportionately affected by Police Brutality, which is not good for the nation. A black man is three times more likely to be shot and killed than a white man is, and it is everyone’s responsibility to care about how this affects our society. Racial disparities in our society continue to exist, with minorities disproportionately targeted during police encounters. It should not be this way because it is against the Declaration of Independence, creates a bad relationship between police officers and minority communities, and enables brutality against minorities. While various solutions have been created to help eliminate police brutality against African Americans, all citizens must be more socially aware and take action when they see injustices.


  1. Graham, A. et al. (2020) “Race and worrying about police brutality: The hidden injuries of minority status in America,” Victims & offenders, 15(5), pp. 549–573. doi: 10.1080/15564886.2020.1767252.
  2. Hong, S. (2017) “Does increasing ethnic representativeness reduce police misconduct?” Public administration review, 77(2), pp. 195–205. doi: 10.1111/puar.12629.
  3. Levinson-King, R. (2020) “George Floyd death: Seven solutions to US police problems,” BBC, 9 June. Available at: (Accessed: September 9, 2022).
  4. Ray, R. (2020) How can we enhance police accountability in the United States? Brookings. Available at: (Accessed: September 9, 2022).
  5. Reynolds-Stenson, H. (2018) “Protesting the police: anti-police brutality claims as a predictor of police repression of protest,” Social movement studies, 17(1), pp. 48–63. doi: 10.1080/14742837.2017.1381592.
  6. Schwartz, G. L. and Jahn, J. L. (2020) “Mapping fatal police violence across U.S. metropolitan areas: Overall rates and racial/ethnic inequities, 2013-2017,” PloS one, 15(6), p. e0229686. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0229686.
  7. Schwartz, S. A. (2020) “Police brutality and racism in America,” Explore (New York, N.Y.), 16(5), pp. 280–282. doi: 10.1016/j.explore.2020.06.010.
  8. Walsh, C. (2021) Solving racial disparities in policingHarvard Gazette. Available at: (Accessed: September 9, 2022).

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