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INJUSTICE IN JUSTICE 1

Injustice In Justice

Victoria Mendoza

James Madison University


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For the purpose of this essay my research questions are: Do female criminals receive better

treatment in courts of law and get lighter sentences than male criminals? Also, is the prison

system just? It is important that we discuss the atrocities happening within the court and prison

system simply because it has a substantial effect on the 2.3 million people incarcerated and their

loved ones. Most people who have not had first-hand experience with the system tend to be blind

to what is happening simply due to lack of involvement which is why this is such an important

topic to discuss.
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The greatest injustice is knowing that the United States doesnt have a just justice system.

The U.S. prison system is cluttered with hypocrisy as the statistics within jail dont accurately

align with the ratio outside of jail. For instance, although women make up about 49% of the

population outside of prison, within prison their ratio is only about 11% of all prisoners

(citation). Incarcerated men are supposedly more likely to commit violent crimes then women,

meaning that they are a greater danger to the society. Also, as a whole the United States has more

people incarcerated than any other country, half of the states themselves have more people

incarcerated than other countries do. So, the research question: Do female criminals receive

better treatment in courts of law and get lighter sentences than male criminals? Also, is the prison

system just? Although its obvious that women as a whole receive lighter sentences than men, it

is not as obvious as to how the prison system treats each gender once they are incarcerated. Due

to the overall lack of knowledge and the focus on gender, this topic is an important stepping

stone towards empathy within our country and class regarding the prison system.

Within the first article Anne Milgram tries to create a more just system by elaborating on

her experiences as an Attorney General. When she was first appointed as attorney general she

realized that the state of New Jersey, her domain, was not completely aware of who they had

behind bars. After digging further into the statistics she realized that most of the people behind

bars were there for petty misconducts such as a man who stole 9 blankets because he was cold

and homeless (Milgram, 2013, p. 9). She saw this injustice and created a more objective

analytical system to assist in determining who went to jail. Her website helped drop the

incarceration rate as well as stop overall crime in New Jersey (Milgram, 2013, p. 6). She hopes

that this will spread to all states and eventually stop the disgusting misrepresentation of colored
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people in jail as well as all misrepresentation. Anne Milgram is a credible source because of her

direct position, affiliation and experience with the prison system.

Furthermore Peter Wagner and Bernadette Rabury focus on the Mass Incarceration: The

Whole Pie 2017 which means they are concentrating on who exactly is behind bars. Their main

claim is that there are different types of people incarcerated. Their numbers range from what

proportion of people are in State Prisons and Local Jails to the racial and ethnic disparities in

prisons and jails. Even the amount of people who have committed certain crimes are included in

their report (Wagner, Rabury, 2017, p. 3). The authors illustrate that there are obvious problems

with the justice system based simply on who is being put in jail for non-violent crimes.

As a balance to the previous articles the last article is about the Daily Life Inside a

womens maximum security prison by Madeleine King. This article focuses more on the daily

schedule like when they eat and when they receive visiting hours. It also focuses on the political

system; who is in charge and who is likely to be beat up (King, 2016, p. 14). It also elaborates on

recidivism, which is the likelihood people will return to jail. (King, 2016, 25). Although this

article seems dramatized at points it is written by the help of women who were behind bars,

many of whom are quoted in the article. This article is a great example to show who the prisoners

are and how they live their lives inside.

Although the research question is primarily focused on gender two of the three articles

reference the huge discrepancy between race in prisons. In her article, Madeleine King

references the injustice by stating, Indigenous women are 23 times more likely to be in jail than

their non-Indigenous peers (King, 2016, 24). Peter and Rabury show that although white

people make up 64% of the country they only represent 39% of the Prison/Jail population

whereas while black people make up only 13% of the nation they represent about 39% of the
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Prison/Jail population (Peter, Rabury, 2017, P. 27). The overrepresentation of people of color is a

horrendous flaw in the system that should be relooked at, which hopefully with the help of Anne

Milgrams device will happen. This correlation is because her device does not question the

persons race, so even if the judge has prejudices in his heart the numbers wont lie. The articles

help show the question of race behind bars is a social problem that unfortunately everyone must

answer: are we sure that everyone has moved on from the past?

Although the focus is about jail there is also careful consideration about what happens

when people leave the system. Hopefully people would leave jail and never return, unfortunately

that is not the case. Many people find themselves in situations where they have to continuously

return to court for some check-up, but fines stack up. There are several restrictions that although

dont seem very hazardous cause strife and inconveniences in working-class peoples lives who

dont have the time to drop everything and go to court. Wagner and Rabury mention that given

the often onerous conditions of probation, policymakers should be cautious of alternatives to

incarceration that can easily widen the net of criminalization to people who are not a threat to

public safety meaning that if a prisoner misses a court date or if they move -even within the

city- without asking permission its a fine or jail time which means jail time for someone who is

not necessarily a threat to the society (Wagner, Rabury, 2017, 30). In addition, King writes about

a woman who easily broke her parole simply by denying rehab (King, 2016, 26). Its important

to acknowledge this because of the injustices and lack of rights given to incarcerated individuals.

The first huge difference between the sources accounts for only one of the sources

describing what its like behind bars whereas the other two refer more to statistics. Anne

Milgram and Wagner and Rabury tend to focus on statistics to have an objective stance, and

agree that a problem with our system is that we dont have an objective stance. They arent trying
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to gain empathy by forcing the audience to see the people behind bars or what they have to say.

By looking at the numbers and comparing and contrasting them to other countries, states, and

ratios within Wagner and Rabury help create a system that allows people to understand what is

happening on the inside without describing in detail. Milgram relies on her experience and states,

I actually believe the problem that we see and the reason that we have these incredible system

errors, where we're incarcerating low-level, nonviolent people and we're releasing high-risk,

dangerous people, is that we don't have an objective measure of risk (Milgram, 2013, p. 16).

Interestingly the two articles that focus more on statistics also emphasis the lack of justice in the

system more than the third. On the contrary King has fixated less on statistics and more on the

individuals. She interviewed incarcerated women and describes what it was like: who gets beat

up, who doesnt, visiting hours, why some of the women are locked up, who returns and why.

Both sides of the argument open the eyes of people who know next to nothing about the system.

Furthermore Wagner, Rabury, and King focus on different aspects of men versus women

incarceration. Wagner and Rabury delve into the big picture while King works on specified

events. Wagner and Rabury show how women only make up about 9% of the pie (Wagner and

Peter, 2017, p. 12). King works on differences between males and females. She describes their

personalities, how men are more likely to stab each other but women will just be verbally

meaner. She states that men will drop a question but women will keep asking without rest (King,

2016, p. 37-41). This shows that although women make up a lesser proportion they also tend to

be less likely to commit violent crimes which is why the systems are in place.

Anne Milgram creates a detailed account of her experiences working for the system and

how she tried making it more objective, which shows credibility and logic. This was a strong

source because it allows the audience to see that even someone working for the system sees how
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corrupt it is. She elaborates on people being convicted for non-violent crimes who dont need to

incarcerated. This is a remarkable source because its first-hand experience that understands

theres a problem.

Wagner and Peter focus entirely on statistics. Theyre work is on a website that has next

to everything anyone would need to know about the prison system. By advocating for reform

through statistics they show credibility and logic in their writing. Their strengths include their

ability to be analytically detailed while still having a strong stance on the position. Their

weakness is that they have a few graph that dont have writing to go with it, so I had to describe

those in order to cite them. Overall, this is a great source that relies heavily on facts rather than

opinions.

Kings article is the weakest between the three. It lacks detail and direction. It covers too

much without really covering anything. One second it focuses on the schedule of inmates and the

next it talks about one women trying to beat up another. King shows inconsistency by later on in

the article it mentioning that women really dont beat each other up. She also doesnt have a set

stance, whereas the other two articles specifically called for objective reform. This is by far the

weakest source due to inconsistencies, lack of detail, and lack of direction.

The justice system is far from just. My biggest mistake was choosing my sources for this

article before I was finished researching. Although I was always aware of the lack of justice, I

never realized how bad it really was. For instance, an article that I found later references how a

phone call into the jail costs anywhere from 11 cents a minute to a dollar and half a minute. The

biggest change in my viewpoint is that its not really that women have it easier, but rather that

men are often treated unjustly because of their nature. Men are seen as more likely to commit

crimes because of who they are as people. Also, rather than focusing on men and women a huge
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issue is black men being wrongly incarcerated. Another issue are petty drug crimes or other petty

non violent crimes receiving the same punishment or worse than actual violent crimes. For my

upcoming web page Id really like to focus on the injustice as a whole rather than delving into

men and women, mostly because there arent a lot of detailed papers on that stance. As a whole,

this paper shows that there is still a lot more research needed but thankfully there are a lot of

people headed in the right direction for change.

REFERENCES
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Milgram, A. (2013). Why Smart Statistics are the Key to Crime Fighting. TedTalks.

https://www.ted.com/talks/anne_milgram_why_smart_statistics_are_the_key_to_fighting

_crime

King, M. (2016). Daily Life Inside A Women's Maximum Security Prison.

Insight. http://www.sbs.com.au/news/insight/article/2016/11/07/daily-life-inside-

womens-maximum-security-prison

Wagner, P. Rabury, B. (2017). Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2017. Prison Policy

Initiative. https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/pie2017.html