Ethnicity, crime and justice

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  • Created by: Emily
  • Created on: 24-05-16 17:56

Victim Surveys

Victim surveys ask individuals to say what crimes they have been victims of. We can gain info about ethnicity and offending by asking the victims to identify the ethnicity of the person who committed the crime against them. (e.g in the case of 'mugging' black people are significantly over represented among those identified by victims as offenders).

Victim surveys show that a lot of crime is intraethnic (e.g according to the British crime survey in 90% of crimes where the victim was white, at least one of the offenders was also white.

While victim surveys are useful in helping us to identify ethnic patterns of offending, they have several limitations:

- They rely on victims memory of events. According to Bowling and Phillips, evidence suggests that white victims may 'over identify' blacks - saying the offender was black even when they were not sure.

- They only cover personal crimes, which only make up about 1/5th of all crimes.

- They exclude crimes by and against organisations, so they tell us nothing about white collar and corporate crimes

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Self report studies

Self report studies ask individuals to disclose their own dishonest/violent behaviour. Based on a sample of 2500 people, Graham and Bowling found that blacks (43%) and whites (44%) had very similar rates of offending, while Indians, Pakistanis, and Bangledeshis had much lower rates.

Sharp and Budd note that the 2003 CJ survery of 12,000 people found that whites and those of 'mixed' ethnic origins were most likely to say they had committed an offence, followed by blacks and asians.

The findings of self report studies challenge the stereotype of black people as being more likely than whites to offend, though they support the widely held view that Asians are less likely to offend. However, self report studies have their limitations too.

Overall, the evidence on ethnicity and offending is somewhat inconsistent. (e.g. while official stats and victim surveys point to the likelihood of higher rates of offending by blacks, this is generally not borne out by the results of self report studies.

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Policing

Phillips and Bowling note that since the 1970s there have  been many allegations of oppressive policing of minority ethnic communities, including 'mass stop and search operations' etc 

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Stop and search

Members of minority ethnic groups are more likely to be stopped and searched by police.

Police can use this power if they have reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing. Compared with white people, black people are 7x more likely to be stopped and searched and Asian people over twice as likely. (only a small proportion of stop and searches end in arrest)

Under the Terrorism Act 2000, police can stop and search persons or vehicles whether or not they have reasonle suspicion. Stats from 2006/7 show that Asians were over 3x more likely to be stopped and searched than others under the Terrorism Act (especially after events such as the 9/11)

Phillips and Bowling note that members of these communities are more likely to think they are 'over policed' and 'undeer protected' and to have limited faith in the police.

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Explaining stop and search patterns (police racism

The Macpherson Report(1999) on the police investigation of the racist murder of the black teenager Stephen Lawrence concluded that there was institutional racism within the Met police. Others have found deeply ingrained racist attitudes among individual police officers.

(e.g Phillip and Bowling point out that many officers hold negative stereotypes about ethnic minorities as criminals, leading to deliberate targeting for stop and search. Such stereotypes are endorsed and upheld by the 'cateen culture' of rank/file officers.

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Explaining stop and search patterns (ethnic differ

An alternative explanation is that disproportionality in stop and searches simply reflects ethnic differences in levels of offending. However, it is useful to distinguish between low discretion and high discretion stops.

- In low discretion stops, police act on relevant info about a specific offence, for example a victims description of the offender

- In high discreiton stops, police act without specific intelligence. It is in these stops, where officers can use their stereotypes, that disproportionality and discrimination are most likely.

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Explaining stop and search patterns (demographic f

Ethnic minorities are over represented in the population groups who are most likely to be stopped, such as the young, the unemployed etc.

These groups are more likely to be stopped regardless of their ethnicity, but they are also groups who have higher proportion of ethnic minorities in them and so minorities get stopped more. 

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Arrests and cautions

Figures for England and Wales show that in 2006/7 the arrest rate for blacks was 3.6x than the rate for whites. By contrast, once arrested, blacks and Asians were less likely than whites to receive a caution.

One reason for this may be that members of minority ethnic groups are more likely to deny the offence and to exercise their right to legal advice (possibly out of mistrust of the police). However, not admitting the offence means they cannot be let off with a caution and are more likely to be charged instead.

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Prosecution

The CPS is responsible for deciding whether a case brought by the police should be prosecuted in court. 

Studies suggest that the CPS is more likely to drop cases against minorities. Bowling and Phillips argue that this may be because the evidence presented to the CPS by the police is often weaker and based on stereotyping of ethnic minorities as criminals. 

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Convictions

Black and Asian defendants are less likely to be found guilty: in 2006/7 60% of white defendants were found guilty as against only 52% of blacks and 42% Asians.

This suggests discrimination, in that the police and CPS may be bringing weaker or less serious cases against ethnic minorities that are thrown out by the courts. 

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Sentencing

In 2006/7 custodial sentences were given to a greater number of black offenders than white or Asian offenders, whereas whites and Asians were more likely than blacks to receive community sentences. This may be due to differences in the seriousness of the offences, or in defendants' previous convictions.

However, a study of 5 Crown Courts by Hood, found that even when such factors were taken into account, black men were 5% more likely to receive a custodial sentence, and were given sentences on average 3 months longer than white men. 

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Pre sentence reports

A PSR is intended as a risk assessment to assist magistrates in deciding on the appropriate sentence for a given offender.

But Hudson and Bramhall argue that PSRs allow for unwitting discrimination. They found that reports on Asian offenders were less comprehensive and suggested that they were less remorseful than white offenders.They place this bias in the context of the 'demonising' of Muslims in the wake of the 9/11 events. 

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Prison

In 2007, just over a 1/4 of the male prison population were from minority ethnic groups, including 15% Black and 7% Asian. 

Black and Asian offenders are more likely than whites to be serving longer sentences.

Within the total prison population, all minority groups have a higher than average proportion of prisoners on remand(awaiting trial rather than actually convicted and serving a sentence). This is because ethnic minorities are less likely to be granted bail while awaiting trial.

Similar patterns in other countries - e.g. In the US 2/5 prisoners held in local jails are black, while 1/5 is Hispanic.

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the 2 main explanations for ethic differences in s

1) Left realism - the statistics represent real differences in rates of offending. 

2) Neo- marxism - the statistics are a social construct resulting from racist labelling and discrimination in the CJS

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Left realists

Left realists see crime as the product of relative deprivation, subculture and marginalistation. They argue that racism has led to the marginalisation/ economic exclusion of ethnic minorities who face higher levels of unemployment, poor housing etc. At the same time the media's emphasis on consumerism promotes a sense of relative deprivation by setting materialistic goals that many members of minority groups are unable to reach by legit means.

One response is the formation of delinquent subcultures, especially by young unemployed black males. This produces higher levels of utilitarian crimes and further marginalisation leads to fustration-- non utilitarian crimes.

Lea and Young acknowledge that the police often act in racist ways and that this results in unjustified criminalisation of some minority groups. But they do not believe that discriminatory policing fully explains the differences in the stats. (e.g. they note that over 90% of crimes known to the police are reported by members of the public rather than discovered by the police themselves. Under these circumstances, even if the police do act in discriminatory ways, it is unlikely that this can adequetly account for the ethnic differences in the stats.

Lea &Young argue that we cannot explain the differences between minorities in terms of police racism. They conclude that stats represent real differences in offending, and that these are caused by marginalisation, relative deprivation etc. 

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Neo marxist- Gilroy (the myth of black criminality

Gilroy argues that the idea of black criminality is a myth created by racist stereotypes of African Carribeans and Asians. In reality, these groups are no more criminal than any other. But as a result of police and CJS acting on these stereotypes, ethnic minorities come to be criminalised and therefore appear in greater numbers in official stats.

In Gilroys view, ethnice minority crime can be seen as a form of political resistance against a racist society, and this resistance has its roots in earlier struggles British Imperialism. He holds a similar view to that of critical criminology, which argues that w/c crime is a political act of resistance against capitalism.

Most blacks&Asians in the UK originated in the former British colonies, where their anti-imperialist struggles taught them how to resist oppression (e.g. through riots) When they found themselves facing racism in Britain, they adopted the same forms of struggle to defend themselves, but their political struggle was criminalised by the British state.

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Criticisms of Gilroys view

Lea and Young critcise Gilroy on several grounds:

- 1st generation immigrants in the 1950s/60s were very law abiding, so it is unlikely that they passed down a tradition of anti colonial struggle to their children. 

- Most crime is intra-ethnic so it can't be seen as an anti colonial struggle against racism.

-Lea and Young argue that like critical criminologists, Gilroy romanticises street crime as somehow revoltionary, when it is nothing of the sort.

-Asian crime rates are similar to or lower than whites. If Gilroy were right, then the police are only racist towards blacks and not Asians, which seems unlikely. 

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Hall et al: policing the crisis

Hall et al adopt a neo-marxist perspective. They argue that the 1970s saw a moral panic over black muggers that served to distract from the crisis of capitalism.

Hall et al note that there was no evidence of a significant increase in this crime at the time. Mugging was soon to be associated by the media, police, and politicians with black youth.

They argue that the myth of the black muggers served as a scapegoat to distract attention from the true cause of problems such as unemployment. (the crisis of capitalism)

By presenting black youth as a threat to the fabric of society, the moral panic served to divide the w/c on racial grounds and weaken opposition to capitalism. 

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Hall et al have been criticised on several grounds

-Downes and Rock argue that Hall et al are inconsistent in claiming that black street crime wasn't rising, but also it was rising because of unemployment.

- They do not provide evidence that the public were in fact panicking or blaming crime on blacks.

- Left realists argue that inner city residents fears about mugging aren't panicky, but realistic. 

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