American Criminal Justice System…Not For All the People.

Structural Functionalism as a concept and an analogy frames societies as “super organisms “ whose constituent parts are made up of various social institutions that functions to maintain a state of homeostasis for the collective. Implicit in this framework is the idea that these institutions work together harmoniously and to the benefit of all the members of society. This belief is also a major source of criticism and also used as justification for many extreme conservative beliefs, racists attitudes and practices, and the perpetuation of White hegemonic ideals.

History and a critical objective eye informs us that there are institutions that can be deemed “dysfunctional” and still “work” because they may work better for some people than for others. That struggle leads me to think that there is one main macro level institution that is dysfunctional because even though it works some it is absolutely FAILING others. And I believe that failing is inherent in the system itself and not in the people they are supposed to serve. That institution is the Criminal Justice system.

The Criminal Justice system is dysfunctional because it fails at its primary purpose, which is to rehabilitate people. This is evidenced by the rate of recidivism and its unfair treatment of Black Americans . According to Prisonlegalnews.org “ A U.S Sentencing Commission report on recidivism among federal prisoners, released on January 24,2019, showed that nearly 64% of prisoners who had been convicted of violent offenses were arrested within eight years…”(https://www.prisonlegalnews.org/news/2019/may/3/long-term-recidivism-studies-show-high-arrest-rates/). It is also well documented that Black people are over represented in the federal and state penitentiary system. According to Prisonpolicy.org, Black people represent thirteen percent of the total U.S population but represent forty percent of the incarcerated population of the U.S(https://www.prisonpolicy.org/graphs/2010percent/US_Blacks_2010.html). Finally, concurrent to the over representation in the penal system is the fact that Black people are sentenced more harshly than other groups. According to an article by abcnews.go.com, “ The U.S Sentencing Commission showed that Black men serve sentences that are one average 19.1 percent longer than those for White men for similar crimes.” This is from a November 17th, 2017 article and it also stated that the disparity can’t be accounted for by the offenders history of violence.( https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/black-men-sentenced-time-white-men-crime-study/story?id=51203491)

So to say that the Criminal Justice system does not work would be inaccurate because we are a nation of laws and norms and there has to be a system of crime and punishment. However, I think it is equally obvious that if a person is poor or otherwise marginalized that the system globally does not work for them and is harmful. Failing to properly rehabilitate and to re- integrate, coupled with the fact that a criminal record hampers the ability for gaining employment shows that this particular institution is dysfunctional.

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