When the communist rule and the Cold War had ended, the United States became the brightest example of a democratic state in the world. It was a country model that many people wanted to live. Despite having such a high status at the international level, the US had problems with the freedom restriction inside the country. This essay describes the civil rights and the problem of the prison system in the US throughout the 1990s and up to the present time. It also explains American democracy, opportunities, and equality possibilities and shows the impact of these issues on the electoral system and democracy formation.
For a long time, the US has been a multinational country. Throughout the 1990s, civil rights suffered an issue of racism and sex minority intolerance. However, there were some changes in the perception of people with disabilities. To begin with, in the US, “For centuries race relation has been shaped by black-white divide and the experience of slavery and segregation.” At the end of the twentieth century, because of many Latin and Asian immigrants arriving at the country, the problem of discrimination against black people had taken a backseat for some time. In 2010, there were approximately 50 million Latinos in the US. They “had become the largest minority group in the States.” Most Latinos were immigrants from Mexico, Central and South America, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico.
In 1991, when Bill Clinton became the President, he focused his attention on domestic affairs, especially on the economic revival. His steps canalized the energy and efforts of all races into economic development and temporarily prevented the black population from racial aggression. As a result, the government made arrangements that helped overcome the economic crisis and increase the social standard of living.
Until the end of the twentieth century, homosexuals were blamed for AIDS spread; thus, they were discriminated by society. They were abused at the workplaces and could be excluded from the army. In the 1900s, the gay movement managed to attract the government’s attention to the AIDS problem and necessity of further dealing with it. Therefore, such initiatives of the homosexuals have increased the tolerance towards all sexual minorities. Moreover, the “newly organized disabled Americans” vindicated a claim about employment opportunities. Their struggle for the public place’s entrance that facilitated the movement of the handicapped people was also victorious.
The prison system of this country should also be mentioned while talking about civil rights. At the beginning of the 1990s, the high crime rates, caused by the economic recession, were reduced “thanks to more effective urban police tactics.” Such a strategy led to an increase in the number of prisoners. Moreover, it revealed such hidden problems of the American crime and punishment system as excessive prison funding, harsh treatment of prisoners on the basis of the racial attitudes, and prejudicial background of the juvenile justice system. Many convicts caused the appearance of a prison-industrial complex. Prisons became sources of cheap labor. Therefore, the government preferred funding prison to support educational establishments. This strategy led to an increasing number of correctional institutions and convicts’ exploitation for the sake of economic recovery. Despite this fact, the prisoners were badly treated. In most cases, the reason for such treatment was racial prejudice. The situation had not changed for years. An example of racial abuse can be Mumia Abu-Jamal’s disease and his improper medical treatment. The man was the black activist, who was sentenced to death for the murder of the white police officer. When Abu-Jamal’s family was informed that he had a medical crisis,” nobody was allowed to visit him, even his lawyers. Therefore, it can be stated that people of color “experienced most strongly the paradox of growing islands of unfreedom in a nation that prided itself on liberty.”
In most cases, the black population was convicted of crack selling and served long sentences for different violations. According to statistics, the percentage of black people imprisoned is “five times higher than the population of white Americans.” Moreover, a person, who once was claimed to be a criminal and served some time in jail, had problems with employment. The reproductive capacity of the subpopulation also dramatically reduced as many young people spent their youth in prisons. “Their children became “prison orphans,” forced to live with relatives or in foster homes.” Not only poverty but also educational segregation influenced the criminal rate among the Afro-Americans.
In most cases, the school-to-prison pipeline strategy has caused children’s isolation. This term implies “the policies and practices that push our nation’s children, especially our most at-risk children out of the classroom.” It is not easy to find the core causes of this process. The generally accepted explanations of the school-to-prison pipeline phenomenon are the inability to pay for education, the low-qualified staff, and racial prejudice at the public schools. “Since school funding rested on property taxes,” not all pupils could get a good education. Especially the immigrants’ children, whose parents had the low-paid jobs and could not afford spending much money on educational purposes. Therefore, children from such families were forced to visit public schools. The teachers’ shortage and overcrowded classes in these educational institutions made the quality of schooling much lower than in the private ones. Moreover, strict discipline and zero tolerance caused numerous expulsions. There were certain problems with coming back to school again. With time, the situation has not changed much. In 2007, “for every 100 students who were suspended, 15 were Black, 7.9 were American Indian, 6.8 were Latino and 4.8 were white.” It means that half of all students forced to leave the schools are the representatives of the black population. Moreover, the vast majority of white children prefer studying in school establishments with a small percentage of the other race pupils. Such treatment makes the abused students break the law. It may mean that the U.S. crime and punishment system does not imply helping such people but ensures locking them in prisons.
Considering the trends of the USA crime and punishment system, it can be stated that today, the country cannot guarantee the equal status of every citizen. In addition, the country is unable to provide the whole nation with the same opportunities. On the one hand, the American society protests against the inconveniences caused by the insufficie