And racial prejudice obviously impacts the American criminal justice system. The fact of the matter is, in the year 2000 non-Caucasians represented more than 66 percent of the prison population while comprising less than 30 percent of the American population (Roach, 2002, p. 25). Likewise, the lower classes are much more susceptible to arrest and conviction than are the upper classes. Police have been accused of focusing more heavily on poor and minority neighborhoods; this practice of selective policing logically results in more arrests in poorer areas (Roach, 2002, p. 26). African Americans, for example, though representing only 13 percent of illegal drug users in the US, comprise 74 percent of the population arrested for drug possession (Roach, 2002, p. 27). Nationwide, once an African American teenager is convicted of a drug crime, that teen is 48 times more likely to be sentenced to prison than a Caucasian teen convicted of the same crime (Palmberg, 2003, p. 17).
If the US is to achieve racial and social parity in its criminal justice system, it must be prepared to enforce a radical shift in its social welfare philosophy. Because racial minorities are overrepresented in the lower classes, the first step in addressing racism in the justice system is to address the neighborhoods that are ˘providing÷ so many future prison inmates. Social policies that create equality, allow for social mobility, and cultivate opportunity for the poor will naturally red