The Criminal Justice System Essay

2117 Words Nov 30th, 2016 9 Pages
The social category “children” defines a group of individuals who are perceived to be distinct, with essential characteristics including innocence and the need for protection (Haslam, Rothschild, & Ernst, 2000). However, not every child is given the protections of childhood equal to their peers. On average, children who are members of dehumanized groups such as African Americans receive fewer basic social considerations (Haslam, Rothschild, & Ernst, 2000). The lack of perceived innocence for Black children causes individuals to view them as more “adult-like” or overestimate their age. These false perceptions portray Black children as less innocent and more vulnerable to harsh, adult-like treatment. In the context of the criminal justice system, dehumanization of this kind could explain the racial disparities in sentencing and use of force by officers (Phillip Atiba, 2014). Black children are 18 times more likely than White children to be sentenced as adults and represent 58% of children sentenced to adult facilities (Poe-Yamagata & Jones, 2007).
Dehumanization is commonly mistaken as prejudice. However, several researchers have argued that the two acts are independent of one another. Prejudice is defined as a broad intergroup attitude whereas dehumanization is the route to moral exclusion and the denial of basic human protections to a group or group member (Opotow, 1990). Dehumanization predicts the endorsement of genocide or extreme violence toward an individual or group…

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