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    Social Conflict Theory: Arrests in California

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    San Francisco police cited several factors they say contribute to African Americans accounting for about half of all felony arrests in the city, where they are less than 8 percent of the population. In 2005, 1 out of 3 arrests of black people involved narcotics. San Francisco's high black arrest rate is not of recent origin: 20 years ago, San Francisco was making black felony arrests at a rate much higher than California's seven other largest cities, state Justice Department reports show. In 1986, for example, San Francisco's black felony arrest rate was almost 45 percent greater than Los Angeles' and almost 51 percent higher than Oakland's. Many minorities believe that California's predominantly white judges, juries and court staffs treat them unfairly while courts convict and imprison them at a higher rate than whites, said a report released yesterday by the state Judicial Council. Statistics on the sentencing of adults "are inconclusive," according to the report. But it found evidence of racial and ethnic prejudice in several national studies. For example, 33.2 percent of black males in California were on parole, on probation or in prison in 1990. The comparable figures for Latinos and whites were 9.4 percent and 5.4 percent, respectively.

    At the same time, the report said, whites commit about 60 percent of rapes, robberies and assaults in California but account for less than half of the prison population.

    In the decades since then, San Francisco's black felony arrest rate has climbed by more than 35 percent while the other seven major California cities' rates have dropped -- often by a considerable amount. During those 20 years, Los Angeles' black felony arrest rate dropped by more than 36 percent and Oakland has declined by more than 52 percent.

    In the context of the situation in California:
    - Are arrests a valid indicator of actual crime rates? If an area has more arrests, does that mean that it has more crime?
    - San Francisco police arrest African-Americans for serious crimes at a much higher rate than officers in California's other biggest cities. Is this because San Francisco police focused their forces on large minority populations or because of a higher rate of criminal activity within the African-American community? Why?
    - Explain whether conservative or radical conflict theories can be used to justify the high rate of arrest of African-Americans in San Francisco than in other cities of California.
    - According to a number of researchers, minorities constitute the majority of arrests for drug possession, but do not make up the majority of drug users. Is this the case in San Francisco? Why?
    - How are conflict theories different from consensus theories?

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    Solution Preview

    Are arrests a valid indicator of actual crime rates? If an area has more arrests, does that mean that it has more crime?

    Arrests records are not valid indicators of actual crime rates, particularly in the criminal justice system in America that has been biased against African Americans and still discriminates against them. Arrest records are indicators of discretion by police officers, who serve as the first part of the criminal justice system. Statistics have consistently proven that Whites commit more drug offenses, drug sales, and other crimes than Blacks do, but in these types of crimes, the police have the discretion to either arrest, issue citations, or issue warnings. Research has shown that Blacks including adults and juveniles are disproportionately arrested for crimes that whites are not arrested for. This is a byproduct of racism and discrimination that is rampant ...

    Solution Summary

    This solution discusses social conflict theory with regard to social conflict theory.