race and ethnicity and its correlation with the death penalty
Criminal Justice Podcast discusses the correlation between race and ethnicity and the death penalty in the United States. Evidence shows that African Americans and Hispanics are more likely to receive the death penalty than white or Asian individuals. Racial bias and institutional racism play a significant role in this issue. Legislation and efforts to combat stereotypes and biases are necessary to address this problem. Supporting organizations like the Innocence Project can help exonerate wrongfully convicted individuals. It's important for listeners to be informed and take action to create a more equitable criminal justice system. Welcome, this is the Criminal Justice Podcast on 204.7. We bring you the latest trending news and topics in the criminal system of the United States. So, today's special guest is joining us all the way from Sacramento, California. Dr. Yonderson, a prominent author and professor of criminology at the University of Sacramento, is going to introduce a very special topic to us today. This topic pertains to both the field of criminal justice and how it intersects with both race and ethnicity. Thank you so much for the introduction. Today I prepared a very special discussion. Today I plan to discuss a very fascinating and controversial issue that is present in both our criminal justice system today. It is obvious that those of African and Hispanic backgrounds are far more likely to receive the death penalty in the United States than those of white or Asian backgrounds, even in parallel or less severe crimes. If that's true, that's horrible. Now, before I dive into the specifics of this issue, I'd like to give our listeners a little background to further their understanding. Take it away. Now, the United States was founded in 1776 and, like many nations, implemented a form of capital punishment or the execution of a citizen by the government for criminal acts. Our focus today centers around the death penalty and how the United States implements this form of punishment unjustly. Now, capital punishment, or the death penalty, has been controversial around the world, especially in the United States of America. The death penalty in the United States was abolished in the early 1970s before being reinstated in 1972. Today, the United States is one of the only modern countries to still carry out executions. Wasn't the death penalty reinstated over a matter of states' rights? You're right, you're right. Further evidence of controversy surrounding executions in the United States can be found when we look at how many individuals have been wrongfully executed by the American courts since the reintroduction of the death penalty in 1973. The Innocence Project, a foundation set on clearing the names of wrongfully condemned death row inmates, estimates that near 190 people have been executed wrongfully in our criminal court system. These individuals were mainly racial and ethnic minorities, many of whom would be later exonerated for their crimes posthumously. It just goes to show that there are deep flaws within our execution system. These are just some of the controversies surrounding our state executions, but the most controversial is the existence of the correlation between race and ethnicity, and the use of capital punishment. Now, this correlation proves that the institution of the death penalty is fraught in both racism and bias. Could you expand on that? I think our listeners would be very eager to understand what you mean. Dating back to the Emancipation Proclamation in 1865, newly freed slaves and people of color were persecuted en masse compared to their white counterparts. What's more, it was the white governments that created laws and policies, such as the Black Codes and Jim Crow laws, that specifically sought to target racial minorities with unjust prosecution and incarceration. Modern evidence suggests that racial minorities are far more likely to receive the death penalty than white or Asian citizens. A multi-state study was done across ten years that attempted for the first time to quantify and or prove the existence of the correlation of race and ethnicity and the death penalty. Researchers Anita Picard and Michael Wiatrowski found through data analysis and statistics that African Americans are far more likely to receive the death penalty compared to any other racial group, despite making up only a small percentage of the population. Furthermore, they found that white juries sentenced minorities to harsher sentences at a rate far greater than white defendants. Court tactics such as preemptory challenges were used to keep juries white and to further exclude African Americans and Hispanics from juries. Now that we have a better understanding of the background surrounding the topic I prepared today, we can now dive into this concept a little deeper. That's awful if it's true. Could there really be such a difference in the likelihood of receiving the death penalty just because of one's skin tone? Unfortunately, there is. Even the origins of capital punishment were tangled in racism. A study was done polling jurors after trials and asking what the turning point for the decision was. We learned that the defendant's race is the driving factor that determines sentencing and the use of the death penalty. It is also disconcerting to discover that many of these laws are based on racial profiling that ultimately may lead to sentencing individuals for crimes they didn't commit. Black codes introduced illegal activities such as vagrancy and loitering to target newly freed slaves and Jim Crow laws saw African Americans subject to the loss of rights and persecution. That is so awful. Is there that much evidence to support all of this? It really is. With our topic introduced, we can move into looking at that evidence that supports this mind-opening idea of there being a correlation between race and ethnicity and the likelihood to receive the death penalty. To begin with, let us first look at a study conducted at a multi-state level. This study found evidence that states with high concentrations of black citizens were more likely to use the death penalty far more frequently. Furthermore, it was found that in states where political agendas favored conservatives, especially in the South, the number of executions of black and Hispanic citizens far outweighs that of white citizens. If that doesn't show the discrepancies in our criminal justice system, I don't know what will. This is a serious problem that needs addressing as citizens of color should not be more susceptible to receive the death penalty just for the color of their skin. Now, is there any further evidence to support any of this? Yes, there is. Further evidence can be found in a study conducted on a total of 561 mock jurors. In these cases, it was observed that white jurors were more prone to recommend the death penalty for persons of color as well as low socioeconomic status. Looking further into the study, the researchers made sure to vary names for confidentiality, but they observed that in instances of cases that were near identical with the only varying factor being race, juries that consisted of most white jurors were more likely to recommend capital punishment. Wow, now that's truly fascinating. It's obvious that this is a problem in our country, but what can we do to stop this? I'm so glad that you asked that question. Stopping this issue is a lot harder than it may seem. You see, a lot of these issues arise from bias and racist sentiments that reside within the public. Now, I'm not saying everyone is racist, merely that a large majority holds biases or thoughts pertaining to stereotypes. Stereotypes are oversimplified and widely accepted perceptions of certain peoples. Combating stereotypes is one way to solve this problem, as they can be quite negative, while another way to solve this problem is to embrace fighting our own personal biases and looking to understand that we are all the same. But what about as far as legislation and laws? A large culprit to our problem of this correlation between race and the death penalty is the fact that institutional racism and segregation played such an instrumental part in the way our country was formed, unfortunately. If we want to see real change, we need to push legislation that cuts down on laws that reflect institutional racism. Furthermore, we should look to remove laws that promote segregation, bias, or racism. Foundations such as the Innocent Project are pushing to exonerate individuals, primarily Hispanic and African Americans, from wrongful convictions and executions. We need to be supporting these kind of foundations. You were right, this topic is extremely controversial. Is there anything you can think to tell our listeners to help them navigate this topic? I think the best thing we can do is review what we've already discussed. We know that there is a correlation between race and ethnicity, and the likelihood of receiving the death penalty. Hispanic and African Americans are more likely to receive capital punishment than whites and Asians. Furthermore, we discovered that not only does evidence and research support this correlation, but it can also be recreated in mock juries today. This is an issue that we all need to help if we wish to see it resolved. We know that institutional racism, such as segregation, black codes, and Jim Crow from decades and centuries past, is producing these ugly results that we are seeing today. While this issue may seem formidable, it is not too late to step in. It is up to us to step up and put a stop to this. I couldn't agree more. Now, we are nearing the end of our show. Is there anything else you have for our listeners? If we follow suit as such foundations as the Innocence Project, and push for meaningful legislation to erase this correlation, we will be creating a better world. While some experts say the removal of the death penalty would solve this problem, I don't think it's quite as simple as that. We need to fight racism and bias at the root of the source. If we do that, we can do anything. Thank you so much for being on the Criminal Justice Podcast. My pleasure. Until next time. Well, that's all we have for this week's installation of your favorite podcasts. Tune in next week as we dive into deeper and more of the hottest topics in criminal justice. We'll see you then.