The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison
Social stratification brings about adverse effects on the society as the rich in the society get to amass more wealth while the poor result in increasing their chances of imprisonment. This argument tends to allude to the aspect of the law being partial and unfair. This partiality is controlled through power and to whom the power is endowed. Standards of legality are emphasized by reigning administration, the affluent in society, the courtroom judges and the police. The above individuals determine the standards of legality while the poor are simply left to abide by the laid out legal standards. Jeffrey H. Reiman the author of “The Rich Get Richer, The Poor Get Prison,” outlines that the current law is limited in terms resolving disputes, distinguishing the truth and meting out justice.
The autonomous constraint of the law is in its inability resolving simple issues of everyday life. The article cites numerous statistics that indicate increasing cases of work related injuries due to the failure of the management to put up proper safety working conditions. There is also evidenced failure in the government’s efforts in enforcing safety standards. This is one example indicating the constraints of the law in its timely and effective response to serious safety hazards in the workplace for the less fortunate in society (Reiman, 1979).
Although these issues are evidenced in every life, they are rarely responded since attaining the results through the set out legal system requires professionalism, skills, resources and influencing in the effort of identifying a loop-hole in the system and in the process oppress the poor even more. Since poor people cannot access any of the above, they often get to suffer for crimes they did not commit. The article further alludes to racial prejudices in the judiciary system citing that African Americans are less favored by the system since they are more likely to be arrested, face criminal charges, convicted and incarcerated as opposed to their white counterparts. Other studies further indicate that the African Americans have lower chances of being considered for probation, receive a suspended sentence or obtain a pardon. The main reasons for these statistics allude to the fact that African Americans predominantly constitute most of the poor in America.
Statistics indicate that thirty percent of African Americans received income below the poverty in comparison to twelve point five percent of white Americans. This aspect is further expounded when taking into account asset and property ownership. African Americans are known to own close to ten percent of the median net worth of their white counterparts. This shows the poverty aspects of African Americans and attempts to explain their law enforcement issues (Reiman, 1979). Another reason fronted by the article is the lack of access to factors that mainly help in keeping people out of trouble with the law and consequently out of incarceration facilities. These factors include suburban housing in comparison to tenement alley or the access to legal counsel who is able to concentrate on a few cases as opposed to a public defender who is normally overburdened by numerous cases. These factors are out of reach of many African Americans since they are mostly acquired through purchase. As an example, studies indicate that it is much easier for law enforcers to make drug related arrests in “disorganized housing estates. One aspect is that in such areas, drug sales and use are mostly done outdoors in addition to the increased willingness of drug dealers to sell to total strangers.
The author cites inconsistency in the criminal justice processes of arrest and charging, conviction and sentencing. Statistics indicate the process of arresting and charging is not impartial since the law enforcement agency is highly likely to arrest some people as opposed to others. Studies indicate that persons from poor communities are highly likely to raise the attention of law enforcement officers. In addition, these individuals are even more likely to face formal charges when arrested for the same offense, as opposed to their counterparts who are in higher classes. Records indicate that persons who live in poverty-stricken areas who are arrested by law enforcement officers are up to five times likely to appear in official records as opposed to individuals who come from wealthier areas facing similar offenses.
Conviction is pertinent process that determines whether an individual is guilty or innocent. Statistics indicate that poor defendants are highly likely to be convicted as opposed to their rich counterparts for the same criminal offenses. This is mainly because the poor in society lack access to effective legal counsel required in the devotion of adequate time for proper preparation of defense. Professional and well-furnished legal council is very expensive and thus poor defendants are solely left with the option having public services who are usually overburdened and thus ineffective (Reiman, 1979).
Person from wealthy communities are less likely to face sentencing as opposed to their poor counterparts. The criminal justice department is biased on three phases against the poor in society. In the first phase, the judicial system is biased in terms of economic bias regarding harmful activities that are regarded are criminal activities and those that are regarded as regulatory matters. On the second phase, there is economic class bias regarding crimes that are highly likely to be committed by the poor in societies carrying stiffer penalties and harsher sentencing as opposed to crimes that are more likely to be committed by the wealthy in society such as, ”white collar crimes.” Thirdly, the convicted poor have fewer chances of probation or minimized sentencing as opposed to their rich counterparts facing similar offences (Reiman, 1979).
Reiman, Jeffrey H. The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison. New York: Wiley, 1979. Print.