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Racial Profiling in Drug arrests and Sentencing
Mitchell Wright
American Military University
CMRJ499
December 7, 2022
Research Paper Rough Draft
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Criminal Justice Question
Introduction
The topic is complicated and incorporates a number of elements, despite the fact that many
activists have contended that the criminal justice system is founded on race and causes systematic
disparity between races. The use of racial profiling in drug arrests and sentences will be examined in
this essay, along with its effects on the US criminal justice system.
Racial profiling in drug arrests and sentencing is a complicated subject with numerous
variables at play. Despite the fact that both white people and African Americans take drugs at about
the same rate; studies have indicated that African Americans are more likely to be jailed for drug
use. In addition, African Americans are more likely to be sentenced to harsher penalties for drugrelated offenses, even when controlling for other factors such as prior criminal offenses. This
disparity is attributed to several factors, including institutionalized racism, unequal access to legal
resources, and discriminatory enforcement of drug laws.
Additionally, research shows that black people are more likely to be sentenced to prison for
drug-related offenses than white people. These discrepancies are possible due to a combination of
factors, including implicit racial bias within the criminal justice system, harsher sentencing laws for
certain drug offenses, and unequal access to resources like drug treatment programs. To address
these disparities, many activists advocate for criminal justice reform that eliminates racial bias and
increases access to resources like drug treatment programs. They also call for an end to mandatory
minimum sentences and increased investment in services that provide alternatives to incarceration
for drug-related offenses.
The American criminal justice system is incredibly dysfunctional and has a long history of
racial injustice. Unfortunately, racial stereotyping in drug arrests and sentences is still a problem
today. Despite using drugs at similar or lower rates than white people, research has revealed that
black people are jailed at considerably higher rates than white people. Also, compared to white men
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who have committed the same offenses, black men are more likely to face longer prison terms. The
criminal justice system needs to confront its institutional racism.
The problem of racial profiling in drug arrests and sentencing
To effectively address this problem, it is essential to understand the factors that contribute to
it. One major factor is the disparate impact of the “War on Drugs” on minority populations. It
includes the targeting of minority neighborhoods, the use of racial profiling during drug arrests, and
the application of harsher penalties for drug offenses in communities of color (Gaston, 2019).
Additionally, there is evidence of implicit bias in the criminal justice system, which has been shown
to influence decisions regarding charging and sentencing (Cox, 2017). Finally, there is the issue of
unequal access to justice, which disproportionately affects minority communities. Actively is due to
various factors, including poverty, lack of education, and limited access to legal representation
(Gaston, 2019).
All of these factors contribute to the systemic inequality in the criminal justice system and
must be addressed to create a fairer system for all. It is essential to focus on policy and procedural
changes to address the problem of racial profiling in drug arrests and sentencing. On the policy side,
there should be an emphasis on drug policy reform, including the decriminalization of certain drugs,
expanding access to treatment and other social services, and increasing funding for drug-related
issues and specifications.
Evidence suggests that African Americans and Latinos are more prone than white persons to
be arrested and convicted for drug-related charges, which is a serious concern in the criminal justice
system (Earp et al., 2020). Even when there are the same amounts of drugs involved, racial profiling
is common and results in the treatment of individuals of color being unequal (Beck & Blumstein,
2018). Disparities in sentencing, with African Americans receiving sentences that are, on average,
19.1% longer than those given to white defendants, reflect this uneven treatment (Earp et al., 2020).
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Racial profiling also happens during traffic encounters, with police stopping and searching people of
color more frequently (Shumpert & Evans, 2018).
These disparities indicate a criminal justice system based on race, leading to systematic
inequality between races. To combat this problem, there must be a concerted effort to address the
issue of racial profiling (Shumpert & Evans, 2018). This includes increased training for law
enforcement officers on recognizing and preventing racial profiling and greater transparency and
accountability in the criminal justice system (Beck & Blumstein, 2018). Additionally, further
research is needed to understand the dynamics of racial profiling and its impacts on people with
various beliefs and attributes.
Why people of color, especially African Americans are, mainly targeted
Stereotypes
First, they were mainly targeted because there is a perception or belief that African
Americans are more likely to sell or use drugs than Caucasians (Earp et al., 2020). Second, studies
have found that law enforcement officers are more likely to search African Americans in
comparison to Caucasians during traffic stops, suggesting that there is implicit racial profiling and
bias in the criminal justice system (Cole & Smith, 2012).
Third, the criminal justice system disproportionately sentences African Americans and other
people of color for drug-related offenses. Sentencing discrepancies between African Americans and
Caucasians have been documented, with African Americans receiving harsher sentences for similar
crimes (Garland, 2001). Finally, there is evidence that the criminal justice system is more likely to
impose harsher punishments on African Americans, including longer prison sentences and harsher
fines (Klein & Tobolowsky, 2009). This suggests a systemic bias and inequality in the criminal
justice system that favors Caucasians and disadvantages people of color.
Implicit bias, and racism within the justice system contribute to the unequal treatment of
people of color. This is evidenced by the disproportionate numbers of people of color in prison or on
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probation, or the fact that people of color are more likely to be sentenced to harsher punishments
than white people. In addition, racism within the justice system has been linked to police brutality
and the implementation of the death penalty.
There are a number of measures that can be taken to address this systemic racism. For
example, reforming mandatory minimum sentences, eliminating racial profiling, and increasing
racial diversity within the justice system are all important steps that could be taken to help address
the issue. Additionally, many believe that restorative justice is a way to move away from the
punitive approach to justice. This approach focuses on healing and repairing the damage done,
rather than punishing the offender. Ultimately, the goal should be to create a justice system that is
equitable and fair for all races and backgrounds, regardless of gender, race, or class. This can be
accomplished through education, advocacy, and reform. It is up to individuals, organizations, and
governments to take active steps to ensure that the criminal justice system is fair and just for all.
Get the police more arrest
Many studies show that people of color are more likely to be arrested than white people,
even when controlling for the same type of crime (Ferguson & Steffensmeier, 2018). This could be
due to implicit bias from law enforcement and other factors such as poverty, education, and access
to resources. Additionally, people of color are more likely to be policed in specific neighborhoods,
meaning they are more likely to be stopped, questioned, and arrested than white people. Lastly, the
criminal justice system disproportionately targets people of color for drug-related offenses. This is
because people of color are more likely to be seen as drug dealers, despite having a lower rate of
actual drug dealing. This is due to the criminalization of drugs and the “war on drugs” that has been
waged since the 1970s, which has disproportionately targeted people of color (Mauer & King,
2007).
In conclusion, people of color are disproportionately targeted by the criminal justice system,
especially for drug-related offenses. This is due to implicit bias from law enforcement and other
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factors such as poverty, education, and access to resources. Additionally, the criminal justice system
disproportionately focuses on racial well-being and its impassiveness.
Overrepresentation
The systematic racism, targeted policing, sentencing, and socioeconomic inequities are some
of the causes of this overrepresentation. Compared to white people, African Americans are more
likely to be stopped, searched, and charged with drug charges after being taken into custody. Even
when adjusting for drug quantity and kind, African Americans are more likely than Whites to be
imprisoned for drug offenses. And lastly, for the same crime, African Americans are more likely to
receive harsher punishments than Whites. All of these elements play a role in the disproportionate
number of arrests and convictions of African Americans for drug-related offenses.
The “War on Drugs,” which was launched under the Reagan administration and unfairly
targeted communities of color, is largely to blame for this. This resulted in a disproportionate
number of African Americans being arrested, charged, and convicted for drug-related offenses. This
has a long-term impact on the African American community, leading to higher incarceration rates,
poverty, and unemployment. Additionally, African Americans are more likely to be searched,
arrested, charged, and have longer sentences than their white counterparts when facing similar
criminal charges (King & Light, 2019). This is due to several factors, including racial profiling,
implicit bias, and unequal access to legal representation. This has led to a system of injustice, where
African Americans are more likely to be punished for crimes, while white Americans are more
likely to go unpunished.
Possible Solutions
Diversifying law enforcement agencies and courts
This would aim to ensure that everyone has a fair chance at justice, regardless of race or
ethnicity. Increase access to rehabilitative services. The second solution is that there should be an
increase in access to rehabilitative services, such as drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers, mental
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health services, and job training (Exum, 2019). These services are essential for people who have
been arrested and are trying to turn their lives around. Providing these services, it can help to reduce
the number of people who are arrested and sentenced for drug offenses while also helping those who
were incarcerated to reintegrate into society and lead productive lives.
Criminal justice reform The third solution is criminal justice reform. This includes ensuring
that all people have access to a fair trial, reducing mandatory minimum sentencing, and eliminating
racial bias in jury selection (Exum, 2019). These reforms can help ensure everyone is treated equally
and fairly in the criminal justice system. These solutions are not easy to implement and require
effort from the government and the public. However, if we are serious about tackling racial
inequality, these are essential steps that need to be taken.
Change Policies
Increase training
Officers will be trained to understand the effects of racial bias and be taught to be more aware of
their own implicit biases when making decisions related to arrests and sentencing (Earp et al., 2020).
Increase accountability
The criminal justice system should also be more accountable for its actions and decision-making
process. This means that data should be collected on arrests, outcomes, and sentencing decisions to
ensure that they are not racially biased (Earp et al., 2020).
Increase transparency
The criminal justice system should also be more transparent when it comes to how decisions are
made. This means that people should be able to easily access data and information related to arrests,
outcomes, and sentencing decisions (Earp et al., 2020). Create diversion programs. In addition,
diversion programs and alternatives to incarceration should be created to reduce the number of
people incarcerated for minor offenses (Earp et al., 2020). This will also help to reduce the racial
disparities in the criminal justice system.
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Increase oversight
Finally, oversight of the criminal justice system should be increased to ensure that policies
and practices are being followed and to ensure that racial disparities are not present (Earp et al.,
2020). This will help to ensure that the day to day daily activities are responded to effectively.
Establishing Special Courts
Creating drug treatment programs for those arrested for drug-related offenses is another way
to reduce systemic inequality between races. These programs would provide counseling and therapy
to help individuals address the underlying issues associated with addiction (Omori, 2019).
Treatment programs would also provide education and job training to help individuals gain the skills
necessary to lead productive and substance-free lives (Beckett & Brydolf-Horwitz, 2020).
Reforming the bail system is another way to reduce systemic inequality between races. The
bail system should be reformed so that individuals are not held in jail solely because they cannot
afford to pay the bond amount (Omori, 2019). This reform will help ensure that individuals are not
held in jail simply because they are too poor to pay the bail amount. Reforming sentencing
guidelines is another way to reduce systemic inequality between races. Sentencing guidelines should
be improved to ensure that individuals are not subject to disproportionately harsh sentences because
of their race (Omori, 2019). This reform would help to ensure equal justice for all individuals,
regardless of race.
Decriminalizing Marijuana
A 2018 study by the Drug Policy Alliance found that the majority of Americans support
decriminalizing marijuana, citing that “marijuana possession arrests are disproportionately affecting
communities of color, despite similar usage rates across racial and ethnic lines.” The study also
found that from 2010 to 2018, marijuana possession arrests increased by 30%, “with Black people
3.64 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people despite similar
usage rates.” This highlights the need for criminal justice reform that seeks to reduce the
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disproportionate enforcement of marijuana possession and ultimately reduce inequality between
races.
The War on Marijuana has been criticized for disproportionately targeting African
Americans and other minority groups. Many activists suggest ending this campaign and replacing it
with a public health approach (Gaston, 2019). This approach would focus on treatment and
prevention rather than criminalization and punishment. This could also help reduce racial disparities
in the criminal justice system. Creating Alternatives to Incarceration Creating alternatives to
incarceration, such as drug treatment programs, court-mandated community service, or home
confinement, would be a great way to reduce the number of people incarcerated for drug use
(Donnelly et al., 2022). These types of programs can help people get back on their feet and reduce
recidivism rates while reducing the number of people in prison. Reforming Sentencing Laws The
current sentencing laws are often criticized for being too harsh and leading to racial disparities in the
criminal justice system. Activists suggest reforming these laws to reduce prison sentences for nonviolent offenders and focus on rehabilitation instead of punishment (Gaston, 2019). This would help
reduce the number of people in prison and reduce racial disparities in sentencing.
Conclusion
Ultimately, it is vital to recognize the systemic inequality in the criminal justice system when it
comes to race and work towards changing it. Clearly, the criminal justice system is based on race,
leading to systematic inequality between races, especially regarding drug offenses. The criminal
justice system must be held accountable for racial disparities, and activists are pushing for reforms
to address this problem.
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References
Beck, A. J., & Blumstein, A. (2018). Racial disproportionality in US state prisons: Accounting
for the effects of racial and ethnic differences in criminal involvement, arrests,
sentencing, and time served. Journal of Quantitative Criminology, 34(3), 853-883.
Beckett, K., & Brydolf-Horwitz, M. (2020). A kinder, gentler drug war? Race, drugs, and
punishment in 21st century America. Punishment & Society, 22(4), 509-533.
Camplain, R., Camplain, C., Trotter, R. T., Pro, G., Sabo, S., Eaves, E., & Baldwin, J. A.
(2020). Racial/ethnic differences in drug-and alcohol-related arrest outcomes in a
Southwest County from 2009 to 2018. American journal of public health, 110(S1), S85S92.
Donnelly, E. A., Wagner, J., Anderson, T. L., & O’Connell, D. (2022). Revisiting neighborhood
context and racial disparities in drug arrests under the opioid epidemic. Race and Justice,
12(2), 322-343.
Earp, B. D., Lewis, J., Hart, C. L., & Bioethicists and Allied Professionals for Drug Policy
Reform. (2021). Racial justice requires ending the war on drugs. The American Journal
of Bioethics, 21(4), 4-19.
Exum, J. J. (2019). Sentencing disparities and the dangerous perpetuation of racial bias. Wash. &
Lee J. Civ. Rts. & Soc. Just., 26, 491.
Gaston, S. (2019). Enforcing race: A neighborhood-level explanation of Black–White
differences in drug arrests. Crime & Delinquency, 65(4), 499-526.
Gaston, S. (2019). Producing race disparities: A study of drug arrests across place and race.
Criminology, 57(3), 424-451.
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Hart, C. L., & Hart, M. Z. (2019). Opioid crisis: Another mechanism used to perpetuate
American racism. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 25(1), 6.
King, R. D., & Light, M. T. (2019). Have racial and ethnic disparities in sentencing declined?
Crime and Justice, 48(1), 365-437.
Omori, M. (2019). “Nickel and dimed” for drug crime: Unpacking the process of cumulative
racial inequality. The Sociological Quarterly, 60(2), 287-313.
Rosino, M. L., & Hughey, M. W. (2018). The war on drugs, racial meanings, and structural
racism: A holistic and reproductive approach. American Journal of Economics and
Sociology, 77(3-4), 849-892.
Shumpert, J., & Evans, F. M. (2018). Sentencing outcomes of drug offenders in South
Carolina: A comparison of race, gender, and age. An Interdisciplinary Journal, 86.
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1
Racial Profiling on Drug Arrests and Sentencing Annotated Bibliography and Outline
Mitchell Wright
American Military University
CMRJ499
December 4, 2022
2
Racial Profiling on Drug Arrests and Sentencing Annotated Bibliography and Outline
Annotated Bibliography
Exum, J. J. (2019). Sentencing disparities and the dangerous perpetuation of racial bias.
Wash. & Lee J. Civ. Rts. & Soc. Just., 26, 491.
In this article, Exum argues that sentencing disparities and the dangerous perpetuation of
racial bias are huge issues for the United States. He states that sentencing disparities are very
common in the U.S., with African Americans sentenced more often and for longer periods than
whites who commit similar crimes. The author argues that sentencing disparities are due to many
factors including policing, prosecution, jury selection, and plea bargaining decisions. The author
also highlights some of the negative effects of sentencing disparities on both societies as well as
the individuals involved such as mass incarceration rates. Exum concludes his essay with
solutions including diversifying law enforcement agencies and courts so they reflect their
communities which would help reduce or eliminate biases in criminal justice systems. I will use
this article in my research to understand sentencing disparities. I can use this information to
understand why these problems exist and if it is possible for them to be fixed.
Camplain, R., Camplain, C., Trotter, R. T., Pro, G., Sabo, S., Eaves, E., & Baldwin, J. A.
(2020). Racial/ethnic differences in drug-and alcohol-related arrest outcomes in a
Southwest County from 2009 to 2018. American journal of public health, 110(S1),
S85-S92.
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The authors in the article highlight that the arrest outcomes for African Americans,
Latinos, and Native Americans were different when it came to drug-related arrests. There was a
16% higher probability of being arrested for a drug-related crime for African American people.
Furthermore, there was a 25% higher probability of being arrested for driving under the
influence among Latinos and Native Americans. I think the strength of this article is that they
explore the racial or ethnic differences in drug and alcohol-related crimes. However, I find one
weakness with this study is that they are looking at data from 2009-2018, so there may have been
some changes since then. I will use the article in my final research to see if any progress has been
made in decreasing these disparities over time.
Beck, A. J., & Blumstein, A. (2018). Racial disproportionality in US state prisons:
Accounting for the effects of racial and ethnic differences in criminal involvement,
arrests, sentencing, and time served. Journal of Quantitative Criminology, 34(3),
853-883.
Beck and Blumstein highlight that minority groups are disproportionately incarcerated,
emphasizing the need for research on racial disparities. They propose a framework to account for
differences in criminal involvement, arrests, sentencing, and time served by race/ethnicity. Their
data shows that there is an increasing disparity between African Americans and Whites, with
Whites being 10% less likely to be incarcerated in 2015 than they were in 1990. The authors also
find that racial disproportionality is significantly impacted by factors such as a person’s age,
education level, income level, employment status, and military service status and sex crime
history. The strength of their research is that it accounts for all variables which have been found
to correlate with incarceration, like employment status and previous crimes committed. I will use
this article to support the claim that racial disparities exist in our criminal justice system.
4
Hart, C. L., & Hart, M. Z. (2019). Opioid crisis: Another mechanism used to perpetuate
American racism. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 25(1), 6.
In this article, Hart and Hart (2019) argue that the opioid crisis has been used as a
mechanism to perpetuate American racism. The authors first give an overview of the opioid
epidemic from a historical perspective. They then discuss how law enforcement was not just
inactive during the early stages of the crisis but participated in perpetuating it. There are several
examples given such as judges giving harsher sentences for minority offenders who committed
crimes related to opioids when compared to white offenders with similar crimes. I think the
strength of the author’s article is that they describe some potential solutions including
decriminalizing certain drugs and developing better drug treatment programs in communities of
color that offer culturally sensitive care. This article will be used in my research to explore
whether law enforcement agencies across the United States have shown any evidence of racial
bias in their policing practices.
Earp, B. D., Lewis, J., Hart, C. L., & Bioethicists and Allied Professionals for Drug Policy
Reform. (2021). Racial justice requires ending the war on drugs. The American
Journal of Bioethics, 21(4), 4-19.
The authors posit that the war on drugs has disproportionately harmed communities of
color and black people, in particular, leading to racial injustices. They argue that incarceration
rates are up and crime rates are down, making it a failed policy. They provide some case studies
to illustrate their point. For example, they argue that the criminalization of cannabis and
subsequent incarceration rate of African Americans is disproportionate to those of white
Americans. In the end, they call for ending the drug war, restoring human rights in policing
practices, and decriminalizing drugs with a public health approach instead of a criminal justice
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approach. I like the fact that they have both research-based arguments as well as stories from
individuals who have been affected by this. I will use their research to make my argument
against the war on drugs.
Rosino, M. L., & Hughey, M. W. (2018). The war on drugs, racial meanings, and structural
racism: A holistic and reproductive approach. American Journal of Economics and
Sociology, 77(3-4), 849-892.
Rosino and Hughey argue that the war on drugs is one of the driving forces behind the
racialized mass incarceration of black men. They note that this has occurred in part because
policing, prosecutions, sentencing, parole decisions, prison rules, job discrimination, housing
segregation, and other institutional factors have created a system where blacks are
disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system. The authors believe that this has
had many effects including increased levels of violence against blacks; barriers to economic
mobility for black men; and high levels of social stress among black families. I think the strength
of their work is that they do not just present an argument but provide evidence as well. Their
research will be used to argue for drug policy reform so it does not continue to harm the black
community.
King, R. D., & Light, M. T. (2019). Have racial and ethnic disparities in sentencing
declined? Crime and Justice, 48(1), 365-437.
In this research paper, King and Light (2019) investigate whether there has been a
decrease in racial and ethnic disparities in sentencing over the past three decades. The authors
use data from several large-scale studies to examine trends in sentencing outcomes for Black,
Hispanic, and White defendants. They also analyze how these disparities have changed across
various types of cases, as well as different offense types. The authors find that there has been an
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overall decline in racial and ethnic disparities in sentencing outcomes since the mid-1990s.
However, they note that there are still differences between White and non-White defendants. For
example, they find that Black defendants still receive longer sentences than their White
counterparts and that Hispanics receive higher sentences than Whites in certain types of cases.
The results of this research suggest that while there has been some progress in reducing racial
and ethnic disparities in sentencing, there is still much work to be done. This paper provides an
important foundation for further research o

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