Is the American Criminal Justice System Flawed?

In theory, the criminal justice system is composed of equitable laws, interpreted fairly and equally. In practice, the criminal justice system is a mechanism of human behavior and human decision-making. This means sometimes the justice system is flawed. Topics surrounding a flawed justice system have rightly become hot button issues: prisons as a business, unfair arrests, and inconsistent sentencing are only a few of the many.


The criminal justice system is disproportionately composed of minority defendants and inmates, most of whom grew up in economically poor households. Examining the statistics shows unequal numbers of incarcerated individuals by race – some 2.5% of all African-American males in the United States are in jail or prison, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. African-American men (ages 18 to 19) are also 11.8 times likelier to face imprisonment than their white cohorts.

In an objectively blind criminal justice system, the ethnic and socio-economic make-up of a law enforcement agency, a prosecutorial team, or a sitting judge should be of no consequence to the outcome of any given case. Each component of the system should be equally trained, equally competent, and equally objective in following the rule of law. However, this is not always the case.

An African-American or Hispanic-American driver is more than twice as likely to be pulled over by law enforcement than a white driver. Police arrest African-Americans for drug-related crimes at arate twice as highas whites. Despite this fact, the two populations’ drug usage rates are about the same.


A plea bargain, or plea deal, is an understanding in which the defendant agrees to plead guilty to a charge, usually in return for a lesser sentence.

White Americans are more likely to receive favorable plea deals, while African-Americans are more likely to serve longer jail or prison sentences, and upon release are more likely to have their probation revoked.

Black and white defendants receive similar sentences in severe felony cases, but the racial disparity in plea bargaining outcomes are greater in low-level felonies and misdemeanor cases.


About one in 10 adults in the United States was incarcerated in a state or federal prison or county jail in 2013, according to the US Bureau of Justice Statistics. The U.S. imprisons more people than any other country in the world, and over the last four decades, U.S. incarceration has increased exponentially.

Private prisons, also called “for-profit prisons”, are third-party entities with which government agencies contract; such contracts are controversial. Private prison owners often make large profits through incarceration, so it’s in their best interest to keep people in jail.


Our justice system was designed to be amended, updated, and adapted as we continue to grow as a society. Nonprofit organizations are taking on a bipartisan and unified approach to reformation, which is the process of making changes in order to improve the system.

Addressing civil rights, sentencing guidelines, and probation protocol through work with lawmakers from both sides of the political spectrum is a step toward bipartisan reform. Our country has progressed significantly during the last 50 years, though there are more equitable means for our justice system to operate within than the current constructs that exist.