Cultural Difference and Diversity Erin Halpin Southern New Hampshire University CJ-120: Cultural Awareness in Criminal Justice Instructor Derrick Jones June 18, 2023
Policing Policing can be significantly affected by a lack of cultural competence, which manifests in both systemic and individual biases. Cultural competence refers to the ability of law enforcement officers to understand and effectively interact with individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds. When cultural competence is lacking, several issues arise: "Over policing" certain races or ethnicities: Stereotypes, biases, and prejudices may result in disproportionate targeting of individuals based on their race or ethnicity, perpetuating a cycle of distrust and unfair treatment. (American Civil Liberties Union [ACLU], n.d.) Militarization of police: The militarization of police refers to the adoption of military- style tactics, equipment, and mindset by law enforcement agencies. Cultural incompetence can contribute to the misuse or overuse of such tactics in communities, particularly those that have a history of strained relations with law enforcement. (Brennan Center for Justice, n.d.) Field decisions: Unconscious biases may lead to profiling, discriminatory stops, or the use of excessive force, disproportionately impacting certain communities. Lack of cultural competence hinders officers' ability to effectively communicate, de-escalate situations, and understand the cultural context in which they are operating. Other issues of diversity: Cultural biases can affect the way police interact with individuals from diverse backgrounds, including those with mental illness or who identify as LGBTQ+. Without cultural competence, officers may misunderstand or stigmatize individuals, leading to inappropriate responses, discriminatory practices, or a failure to provide adequate support and assistance. Biased policies, practices, and training can cause discriminatory behavior and hinder efforts to build trust and effective community relationships. Addressing systemic biases requires reforms, including diversity training, community engagement initiatives, and the establishment of accountability mechanisms to challenge and correct biased behaviors. To combat these issues, it is essential to prioritize cultural competence in law enforcement training, policies, and practices. Building relationships with diverse communities, promoting diversity within police departments, and implementing community-oriented policing strategies are vital steps towards fostering understanding, respect, and fairness in policing.
Courts Courts can be significantly affected by a lack of cultural competence. Cultural competence refers to the understanding and appreciation of diverse cultural backgrounds, which is essential for ensuring fair and unbiased judicial processes. Here are some ways in which courts can be impacted by a lack of cultural competence: Discrepancies related to drug crime sentencing: Studies have shown that individuals from marginalized communities often receive harsher penalties compared to others, primarily due to systemic biases and a lack of understanding of the cultural and social contexts surrounding drug offenses. (The Center for Court Innovation, n.d.) Bail: Individuals from disadvantaged communities may face higher bail amounts or a greater likelihood of being detained pretrial, causing inequalities, and creating a cycle of injustice within the court system. (The Bail Project, n.d.) Discrepancies related to socioeconomic status: Individuals from lower socioeconomic backgrounds may face challenges in accessing quality legal representation, which can result in less favorable outcomes and a lack of understanding of their unique circumstances. Discrepancies related to death penalty sentencing: The lack of cultural competence within the court system can perpetuate these biases, resulting in unfair and unequal death penalty sentencing. (The Sentencing Project, n.d.) Other issues of diversity: A lack of cultural competence can affect the treatment of individuals with mental illness and LGBTQ+ individuals within the court system. Without an understanding of the unique challenges faced by these individuals, biases can arise, leading to misunderstandings, stigmatization, and unequal outcomes. Systemic biases can affect judicial decision-making, exacerbating disparities and eroding public trust in the fairness and integrity of the justice system. Addressing these issues requires the promotion of cultural competence among judges, attorneys, and court personnel. This can be achieved through diversity and inclusion training, the recruitment of diverse professionals within the court system, and the development of policies that promote equal treatment and access to justice for all individuals, regardless of their cultural backgrounds. Additionally, community engagement and collaboration with cultural and community organizations can help bridge gaps and ensure that the court system is responsive to the needs of diverse populations.
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