The rapist of an unconscious woman at a Stanford University frat party, Brock Allen Turner received an astonishingly low sentence of six months in prison. Contingent upon his behavior, Turner’s sentence will shorten to just three months.
Feminist or anti-feminist, liberal or conservative, black or white, male or female—our differences have become irrelevant in light of the Brock Allen Turner verdict. This case has called everyone to unite against sexual violence and push for harsher punishments for aggressors such as Turner. Moreover, it has led many to the realization that our justice system is deeply flawed, particularly when it comes to non-violent criminals and minorities. These shortcomings within the system have the greatest impact on us college-aged students; the system is ours to reform, and it is our job to educate ourselves and our peers.
Brock Allen Turner, a Caucasian male with upper-class roots, faced up to fourteen years in prison. It has been argued by many social justice activists that had Turner been a “Velez” or a “Rodriguez, things would have turned out very different. Statistically speaking, these activists have valid predictions. According to the 2014 Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2,724 per 100,000 black men were imprisoned while just 465 white men were imprisoned. In 2001, the Bureau of Justice Statistics completed a study that predicted the likelihood of imprisonment, by race, among U.S. citizens. The study found that black men faced a 1 in 3 chance, while white men faced a 1 in 17 chance.
For decades, the writing has been on the wall. Overall, incarceration among minorities is significantly higher. Unfortunately, sentencing lengths continue to prove unfair as well. According to a 2005 study by the U.S. Commission of Sentencing, black men served 20% longer sentences than white men for similar charges. The commission held a second trial in 2007, and found that black men still served 19.5% longer sentences. The most recent retrial was held in 2013, and the rate fell to 14.5%. Despite promising decreases, millennials will need to dedicate their efforts to this cause for decades to come in order to see further progress.
The other massive demographic burdened by our failing justice system is non-violent criminals. While Brock Allen Turner receives six months in prison for brutally raping an unconscious woman, hundreds of prisoners who display no physical threat are held for decades. The Civil American Liberties Union uses Timothy Jackson, an African American male, as a prime example. A thief of a $159 jacket, Jackson will serve life in prison with no chance of parole. Paul Carter, also an African American male, will serve life without parole for being found with a trace of heroin residue that was so tiny, it could not be weighed. Clarence Aaron, a former college student with no prior record, was sentenced to three lifetimes with no parole for partaking in two drug deals.
Clearly, our system is struggling to deliver the justice it intends to. Whether it be minorities, or non-violent criminals, incarceration rates and sentence lengths prove to be unfair. While the Brock Allen Turner case is a tragedy, it provides us with an important lesson: millennials need to do everything in their power to prevent future shortcomings within the system. Whether it be through activism, or donations to organizations, or studying law, it is now our responsibility to come forward and create the change we so desperately need.