White people generally experience living in the US under the microscope of presumptive innocence. However, Black people generally experience the opposite, i.e. living in the US under the microscope of presumptive guilt.
Presumptive guilt can affect legal proceedings if it leads to prejudiced jurors or influences the behavior of law enforcement, prosecutors, or judges. It manifests in a variety of ways, such as public opinion, societal bias, or media coverage (in some circles referred to as “lazy journalism”, “state media”, or “copaganda”).
Presumptive guilt all but ensures that Black people are more likely charged or convicted of a crime without sufficient evidence or due process. Presumptive guilt can potentially undermine the accused person's right to a fair trial.
Some of the aftereffects of presumptive guilt are disproportionate incarceration rates among Black individuals. Presumptive guilt also limits the economic opportunities for Black people, making it difficult for them to establish and maintain businesses. Here are examples of presumptive guilt aftereffects:
Black individuals are more likely to be arrested, charged, and convicted for various crimes compared to White individuals, even when the rates of criminal activity may not be significantly different.
Black individuals often receive longer and harsher sentences for similar offenses compared to White individuals. This is influenced by mandatory minimum sentencing laws and sentencing guidelines.
Policies related to the "War on Drugs" have disproportionately impacted Black communities. Drug offenses, which have led to a significant portion of the prison population, have been enforced more aggressively in Black neighborhoods.
Black individuals are more likely to be detained before trial due to inability to pay bail, which can result in longer periods of incarceration before their cases are resolved.
Racial profiling by law enforcement can lead to higher rates of stops, searches, and arrests of Black individuals, contributing to the overall higher incarceration rates.
Socioeconomic disparities, including limited access to quality education, employment opportunities, and resources, can also lead to higher involvement in criminal activities among Black individuals.
Black youth are more likely to be referred to the juvenile justice system and subsequently enter the adult criminal justice system, setting the stage for a cycle of incarceration.
The existence of a for-profit prison industry can create incentives to maintain a high prison population, which can disproportionately affect Black individuals.
The US Legal System enslaves Black people in such insidious ways while many go about their daily lives almost anesthetized to the carnage. Black people and allies fought back in defiance and rejected the Slave Codes and Jim Crow way of life. Yet, today’s experiences within the US legal system feel reminiscent of circumstances previously defied and overcome.