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Race & Gender in Prison Sentencing


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Graphic designed by Stanley Thompson III

Wealth inequality directly affects one’s lifestyle, especially where they live.

Dr. Vivian Smith, criminology and criminal justice professor at Cabrini College, says she likes to have her students think about how the criminal justice system plays a factor into such inequality by how well-policed certain neighborhoods are.

Typically, the less wealthy the area is, according to Dr. Smith, the better chance of law enforcers frequenting the area, since many folks resort to criminal activities to supplement missing income.

According to Marc Mauer, executive director of The Sentencing Project,  it can be hard for an ex-felon to find a job if their application is stained with the “Yes” box, checked if they have a felony on their record, which may lead them back into a life of crime and poverty.

Simply put, neighborhoods that lack economic success, with citizens that are typically minorities, can be policed quite differently from the way that better-off suburban neighborhoods are policed, though it is not to say many similar crimes do not occur in the more financially-secure areas.

Oftentimes, law enforcers will observe somebody who does not seem to “fit” the time or place of the neighborhood, or possibly matches a description of a wanted person. Now comes an action from the officer in the form of what is often referred to as “stop and frisk.”

In Terry vs. Ohio (1968), an eight-to-one ruling enabled officers to temporarily hold a person if there are specific facts leading a trained officer to believe a crime might be occurring, known as “reasonable suspicion.”

This profiling not only applies to races, but genders as well since in times past, women have been sentenced to shorter terms than men. Men may get prolonged sentences due to “patriarchy,” which views women as “weaker” and “non-threatening.” Through this mentality, women are expected to be the primary caretakers and bare the burden of most of the childcare and domestic work.

According to Stephan Clyburn, professor of political science at West Chester University, as far back as the 1940s, members of the U.S. Supreme Court openly raised concerns that prosecutors had too much power. If the power wasn’t fixed, we would see abuses on a grand scale. These predictions, to an extent, turned out to be true.

However, due to concerns that the only true outcome was abuse of power and incorrect profiling, federal Judge Shira A. Scheindlin ruled in August 2013 that stop-and-frisk tactics of the New York Police Department had violated the constitutional rights of minorities in the city.

Insult only adds to injury when wealth inequality plays a role in all of this, as issues such as these essentially root toward the “necessary evil”: money. The injustices suffered by victims of racial discrimination and related intolerance are rather well-known, as limited employment opportunities and poverty are only a few among these.


This is especially prevalent if the person is applying for a job and has a criminal background, making it even harder to get back on one’s feet. According to the New York Times, men with criminal records account for about 34 percent of all non-working men ages 25 to 54. As a result, many who are in this situation turn back to criminal activities once again for income, and perhaps be caught and arrested, continuing this vicious loop.




Savings, retirement accounts, home ownership and all other financial assets add up to create wealth. When you take a deeper look at wealth inequality in America, it becomes quite obvious that a disparity exists by gender and race.

Income inequality affects wealth inequality because, over the course of a lifetime, lower earnings make it much harder to save and accumulate assets or wealth.

Women are affected in a big way by this disparity. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 1998 women ages 45 to 54 earned 70.5 percent of what men made and women ages 55 to 64 made 68.2 percent of what men made. Since 2004, women’s earnings have been anywhere from 80 to 83 percent of men’s earnings.

Women are still lagging behind, making it very difficult, especially for single mothers, to save, purchase a home or prepare for retirement.

The disparity of wealth is also obvious by race as a whole. A 2013 report from the Urban Institute revealed that whites have seven times more wealth than African Americans and six times more than Hispanics.

African Americans and Hispanics own a much smaller percentage of homes in the U.S., have less money saved and less in retirement savings. Over a lifetime, the average white person makes $2 million, African Americans $1.5 million and Hispanics $1 million.

Lower earnings lead to less savings, making it less likely to have a 20 percent down payment on a home.

According to the same Urban Institute report, African American families average more student loan debt than white families. When you combine this with a lower graduation rate for African Americans, the result is less wealth accumulation.

Wealth is a necessity for everyone to have economic security  and to be able to move up the economic ladder. Women need to be paid equally for doing the same job as a man and people of color, coming from a disadvantage, should be given the opportunity of low cost education and lower interest/down payment home loans in order to lessen the wealth gap.



Jobs in the U.S. are affected by taxes, regulations, international trade and politics/special interests also play a role in their survival and creation.

A research study presented by the National Bureau of Economic Research regarding what types of businesses create the most jobs revealed the younger companies are, the more jobs they create.

The problem with startups is they typically last about five years. As a result, those new jobs are lost. The fact is, according to NBER research, startups make up three percent of employment, but almost 20 percent of gross job creation.

Erik Hunt, a senior human resource executive, co-founder and managing partner of the HuntRoman Group, said they provide virtual human resource support to small- and medium-sized businesses.

Hunt goes on to say, “Small businesses are burdened with this kind of taxation, regulation over and over and it only gets harder when politicians think there’s a revenue stream that isn’t there.”

If our system is set up to overtax and overregulate small and new businesses, it would seem they are being set up to fail. The system is then hindering job creation.

The solution here is to change tax policies and government regulations burying small and startup businesses in order to stimulate job creation.

International trade has a big effect on jobs. There has to be a balance between imports and exports and if the balance is off, there can be a trade deficit. In 2015, the U.S. partnership with Trans-Pacific countries created a trade deficit and cost the U.S. 2 million jobs.

The solution is to give both foreign and U.S. companies the incentive to keep and bring their factories to the U.S. Tax incentives and less regulations will play a big role in keeping and attracting new companies to the U.S., thus creating more jobs.

If politics plays a strong role in job creation, are the priorities or special interests of politicians overlooking the public’s health/safety, opportunities to create jobs, stimulate the economy and reduce the wealth gap?  

Scott Shipe, a project manager for the Frederick County Government in Maryland and the government affairs chair for both the Chesapeake Water Environment Association and the Chesapeake Section American Water Works Association, said the U.S. has been given a grade of D minus from the American Society of Civil Engineers for not keeping up with the ageing water infrastructure. The U.S. spends $38 billion annually on water and sewer band-aid repairs.

According to Shipe, the average age of pipes in the U.S. is 70 to 80 years old and there are 1,200 utilities east of the Mississippi River that are way over 120 to 130 years old. The life cycle of most pipes is 50 years.

Seven water agencies sent letters to Congress and senators on the budget and finance committee that stated, “Investments in the water and wastewater infrastructure provides significant economic benefits to our communities. The U.S. Department of Commerce estimates that each job created in the local water and wastewater industry creates 3.68 jobs in the national economy and each public dollar spent yields $2.62 in economic output to other industries.”

They estimate that it will take 25 years to replace our nation’s ageing water infrastructure at a cost of $1 trillion. Shipe said, “A $100 million project is significant and it would take thousands of people and involve about 50 to 60 industries.”

This would create thousands of blue collar jobs, and white collar jobs as well.

In 2014, the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act was passed. Because WIFIA is a loan program at treasury rates, it results in no long-term net cost to the Treasury or U.S. taxpayers.

Shipe has been going to D.C. for 14 years, lobbying and sitting in on analysis and finance meetings that determine where EPA funding will be spent. Due to the political makeup of our country, Shipe does not see a big movement to make these repairs.

Repairing and replacing our nation’s water infrastructure is a necessity and would create thousands upon thousands of jobs. The solution here is that the U.S. government should make the investment in public safety to stimulate the economy and job creation.

Tax incentives, lessening regulations, balancing trade in our favor and investing in water infrastructure are all solutions to creating new jobs in the U.S., thus reducing the wealth gap.

Justice Services



The inequalities in the United States’ justice system range from racial issues, money playing a part in prison retention and inadequate post-prison support–all of which lends to the continuation of wealth inequality.

Laws and policies such as “stop-and-frisk” and “mandatory minimums” allow for large numbers of individuals to rack-up convictions and leave judges’ hands tied when it comes to sentencing.

The disparities in the percentage of different races that are incarcerated are staggering and so are the numbers of those whose employment eligibility plummets following being incarcerated.

Prisons being run as businesses can be attributed to the advent and perpetuation of many of these destructive justice policies. These calls made by persons reaping the fiscal benefits from those incarcerated does not just affect the imprisoned, but also taxpayers and causes diversions in justice services funds that could otherwise be used for beneficial programs for inmates – programs that could possibly keep citizens outside the walls of the over 2.4 million prisons in the United States.