Paper on the articles Plus Ca Change? Correcting Inuit Inmates in Nunavut, Canada by Tammy C. Landau, Racial Discrimination in the Ontario Criminal Justice System by Scot Wortley and Andrea McCalla, and And the Poor Get Prison by Jeffery H. Reiman

The articles “Plus Ca Change? ‘Correcting’ Inuit Inmates in Nunavut, Canada” by Tammy C. Landau, “Racial Discrimination in the Ontario Criminal Justice System” by Scot Wortley and Andrea McCalla, and “…And the Poor Get Prison” by Jeffery H. Reiman all give insight on to how system racism affects the daily lives of minority groups. These articles use systemic racism to explain why there is an over-representation of minorities within the criminal justice systems in North America. Thus, this essay will analyze each authors interpretation of disproportionate offending to give a better understanding of their thought and discover the limitations encountered in each piece.

Institutional racism refers to patterns in society’s institutions, which although may not have the intention to disadvantage any group have the effect of permitting discrimination against racial minorities. Furthermore, in relation to institutional racism, systemic racism is more about the practices that disadvantage racial minorities. In the article “Plus Ca Change? ‘Correcting’ Inuit Inmates in Nunavut, Canada”, Landau demonstrates how the current criminal justice system operating in Nunavut works to further disadvantage the Inuit people. Author Landau states that the current system operates to further marginalize the aboriginal people because it does not attend to their real needs that the burden of colonialism has left for them. She quotes,
Low incomes, unemployment, poor health care, inadequate levels of education, crowded and substandard housing conditions – all are characteristics of Aboriginal life in Canada. It is crucial to recognize that the social conditions of Aboriginal people is a direct result of the discriminatory and repressive policies that successive European and Canadian governments have directed towards Aboriginal people (Landau; 2006, 193).Her work revolves around allowing transforming the current criminal justice system in Nunavut to one that allows for the self-governing of the Aboriginals so it reflects their culture. Her work is more restorative justice based and trying to develop a system where the Aboriginal culture is tied into the criminal justice system, so they feel a sense of home and belonging. Tammy Landau questions whether the government is really trying to help the Aboriginal people or continue to use a mainstream criminal justice system in a society where the people have been marginalized from the colonial era.

The proposal of a criminal justice system geared towards the needs of Aboriginals and their culture such as the self-governing of Aboriginal people is problematic in the sense that there are other minority groups with historical legacies of colonialism and slavery. For instance, Blacks have a history of slavery and Jim Crow laws, which in turn has an effect on their daily living however; there is no proposal to implement a separate judicial system towards their needs. Instead of implementing a whole new system, judicial practices need overcome their biases towards marginalized groups and understand their historical background and their daily situations. Instead of judicial officials delivering harsh sentences, incarcerating individuals for crimes that they commit because they are forced into tough situations, they should lean to punishments geared to reduce recidivism of racial minorities. However, we have an over-representation of minorities, i.e. Black and Aboriginals in our criminal justice systems because the failure to realize the situations these marginalized groups are in and they are slapped with harsh sentences and punishments.

In the articles “Racial Discrimination in the Ontario Criminal Justice System” by Scot Wortley and Andrea McCalla, and “…And the Poor Get Prison” by Jeffery H. Reiman, race explains why there is an over-representation of minorities in the criminal justice system. A quote in Wortley and McCalla article explains the problem with using race as a determining factor as to why there is an over-representation of minorities in the criminal justice system; “Criminal justice representatives, on the other hand, vehemently deny charges of racism and claim that the system is color blind” (Wortley & McCalla; 2004, 188). This explains the difficulties in defining and quantifying racial discrimination in the criminal justice system because of the invisibility and deniability of systemic racism. It is very easy to provide an explanation as to why and how there is no racism involved in a certain practice or institution. The article quotes the Chief of the Toronto Police service saying, “There is no racism…we don’t look at, nor do we consider the race or ethnicity, or any of that, as factors of how we dispose of cases, or individuals, or how we treat individuals (Wortley & McCalla, 188). However, racism is prominent at each step in the criminal justice system for racial minorities as outlined in all three of the articles. Reiman’s article “…and the Poor get Prison” states that most studies reveal that many police officers freely admit that they use race as an independently significant, if not determinant, factor in deciding whom to follow, detain, search or arrests (Reiman; 2004. 111). He also states that police training and police work condition police officers to be suspicious of certain kids of people, such as lower-class youth, blacks and Mexicans (Reiman, 113). This refers to the racialization of crime and also the criminalization of race. This is the process through which crime is constructed and defined in explicitly racial terms which causes the perception that certain racial groups are predisposed to crime. These are the factors that lead to racial profiling. Racial profiling refers to any action undertaken for reasons of security and public protection that relies on stereotypes about race rather than reasonable suspicion to single out an individual for scrutiny or different treatment. Therefore, police engage in racial profiling to single out individuals who they suspect to be potential criminals.

As stated earlier, defining and quantifying racial discrimination is a difficult task. In the article “Racial Profiling in the Ontario Criminal Justice System”, Wortley and McCalla used Victimization Surveys to calculate the amount of racial profiling that occurs. The issue with this method to formulate a rough number of racial profiling incidences is the problem of over and under reporting. People will over report incidences of racial profiling based on the hype surrounding the issue or report incidences that occurred to people they know. In the case of the Kingston Pilot Project to determine racial profiling through police interactions, Uniform Crime Reports were used to collect data. However, the problem with this method is the discretion the officer has in reporting the individual’s race. The author is aware of this problem because he states,

The integrity of all official data collection projects is completely dependent on the willingness of individual police officers to accurately record information on the people they stop. If officers refuse to record information on all of the stops they have conducted, or if they record the required information incorrectly, the quality of the data produced by the project will be negligible and efforts to investigate racial profiling thwarted (Wortley and McCalla, 195).
Furthermore, in the article “…And the Poor get Prison”, Reiman cites from author William Wilbank’s book The Myth of a Racist Criminal Justice System, he compared the rate at which respondents to the National Crime Survey report being victimized by assailants perceived to be black with the rate at which blacks were arrested for the relevant crimes according to the UCR, and finds that “the racial gap in offending for robbery, assault, and rape was almost equal to that found for arrest statistics”. He continues to say that the results indicate that police select black and white arrestees in approximately the same proportion as they are found in the pool of offenders (Reiman, 105). This statement goes against what Wortley and McCalla state in their article. Wortley and McCalla would argue that within an equal sample of white and black potential offenders, the black offender would more likely be the one arrested and detained. Wortley and McCalla compared 250 white drug dealers and an equal number of black drug dealers and suggested that due to biased practices, 125 black arrests would occur compared to only 25 white arrests. They state that arrests statistics have more to do with law enforcement surveillance practices than actual racial differences in criminal behavior (Wortley & McCalla, 194).

Wortley and McCalla state two factors that protect whites and do not protect blacks from police contact are age and social class. They continue by saying that blacks with high incomes and educations are actually more likely to be stopped than lower class blacks (Wortley and McCalla, 192). Reiman would disagree with this argument because he believes that those in the criminal justice system are those who make up the lowest end of the economic group in the country. He states: One of the reasons the offender “at the end of the road in prison is more likely to be a member of the lowest social and economic groups in the country” is that the police who guard the access to the road to prison make sure that more poor people make the trip than well-to- do people (Reiman, 113).

Therefore, due to the black person’s high income and education, he/she is more likely to be apart of higher economic group and avoid contact with the police. Also, lower-class neighborhoods are policed more frequently than middle and upper class neighborhoods. Therefore, it is more likely for a lower class individual to come into contact with a police officer than individual with a higher economic status. He quotes in his article “…and the poor get prison”:
The weeding out of the wealthy starts at the very entrance to the criminal justice system: The decision about whom to investigate, arrests or charge is not made simply on the basis of the offense committed or the danger posed. It is a decision distorted by a systemic economic bias that works to the disadvantage to the poor (Reiman, 113).

The poor are arrested and charged out of proportion to their numbers for the kinds of crimes poor people generally commit- burglary, robbery, assault and so forth—but when we reach the kinds of crimes poor people almost never have the opportunity to commit such as antitrust violations, industrial safety violations, embezzlement and serious tax evasions, the criminal justice system shows an increasingly benign and merciful face (Reiman, 114). Within his article, Reiman uses a conflict perspective to analyze corporate crime. Corporate crime to Reiman is not considered criminal because the criminal justice system and laws are constructed and operate in the interests of capitalism. He advocates for a broader definition of corporate crime because acts of corporations entail greater economic costs than other categories of crime and cause death and injury. However, he implies in his article that few types of corporate criminal behavior is illegal in regards to the criminal code and majority of these acts violate statutes such as consumer production legislation, food and drug act, etc. He says when it comes to crime in the suites, where the offender is apt to be affluent, the system is more likely to deal with the crime noncriminally, that is, by civil litigation or informal settlement. When it does choose to proceed criminally, it rarely goes beyond a slap on the wrist. Not only is the main entry to the road to prison held wide open to the poor, the access routes for the wealthy are largely sealed off (Reiman, 114). This is true because laws prohibiting corporate behavior are poorly enforced. They are also rarely defined and regulated through criminal law despite these crimes resulting in large numbers of damage and physical injury. His article reports that less than one half of one percent of the criminal indictments brought by the Department of Justice in 1994 involved environmental crimes, occupational safety and health crimes, and crimes involving product and consumer safety issues (Reiman, 118). The belief is that authorities prefer to sue in civil court for damages or for an injunction rather than treat they wealthy as common criminals (Reiman, 118). This is made possible due to the pro-business ideology. This is the belief that corporate harms cannot be managed or eliminated. Also the harms caused by corporations are a side effect of doing business and it cannot be taken away because they are inevitable. Lastly, there is the fear of regulation. There is a belief that increased regulations on businesses will have a negative impact on the economy. The difficulty in defining and measuring corporate crime is because the majority of corporate misconduct is not criminal in nature. It is also very hard for researchers to study corporate activities because they are private entities. Researchers rely on agencies such as Health Canada and Consumer Affairs to gather information on corporate misconduct.

The same principle applies to White-collar crimes. He says white-collar crime is costly and takes far more dollars from our pockets than all the FBI index crimes combined. Furthermore, White-collar crime is widespread, probably much more so than the crimes of the poor. Lastly, white-collar criminals are rarely arrested or charged; the system has developed kindlier ways of dealing with the more delicate sensibilities of its high-class clientele (Reiman, 114). One question that comes to mind is the reason as to why people commit white-collar crimes. One reason could be the structures and cultures of the organization reflect prioritization of profit over morals and ethics. Some business organizations promote white-collar criminality in the same way as lower class cultures promote gangs. New employees learn the attitudes and techniques needed to commit white-collar crime from their business peers. This relates to the differential association theory. Another reason could be that the pressure of capitalism, consumerism and expectation of success drives white-collar crimes.

To conclude, racial profiling and discrimination is a determining factor for the over-representation of marginalized groups in the criminal justice system. Contact with a police by a racial minority, lower class individual will more likely lead the individual deeper in the criminal justice system. Furthermore, crimes committed by the poor are weighed and punished more severely than crimes committed by middle and upper class individuals or corporations despite having more of a negative effect on society.


Landau, Tammy C. “Plus Ca Change? ‘Correcting’ Inuit Inmates in Nunavut, Canada” in The Howard Journal Vol. 45 No 2. pp. 191–207. 2006 Journal compilation: The Howard League

Reiman, Jeffery H. “…And the Poor Get Prison” in The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison: Ideology, Class and Criminal Justice- 7th Edition, pp. 103-156. 2004 Boston: Pearson.

Wortley, Scot and Andrea McCalla. “Racial Discrimination in the Criminal Justice System: Bias Against Black People in the Ontario Justice System” in Criminal Justice in Canada: A Reader, edited by Julian Roberts and Michelle Crossman, pp. 187-206. 2004 Nelson Education Ltd.