Law in Contemporary Society

-- By DianaAvila - 16 Apr 2024

Welcome to CA


Something I have always been open to speaking about is the criminal justice system and how it has affected my community and those like it in addition to my sentiments towards police/sheriff departments and their carceral institutions. Not solely because it is something personal to me, but because it is an ongoing infestation. The many injustices I witnessed have left an eternal scar on me. They all affected me both directly and indirectly. I used to think that maybe they were pronounced because I lived in these communities, that was until I paid attention.

Our Protectors

I was born and raised in Southern California, home of the infamous Los Angeles Police Department and Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. Both organizations are notorious for the amount they get paid and their violent, dehumanizing acts. For context, a sheriff’s starting income as a trainee begins at $75,000 and a police officer’s starting income is more than $80,000. Both salaries are better paid than other government jobs in the county. Yet, it seems like they are paid to use harsh tactics when arresting and are even going as far as “accidental” killings.

It is a very uneasy feeling when those that are meant to “protect and serve” you, are the ones wreaking havoc in your community. And an even more hypocritical circumstance is when LASD and LAPD pride themselves in fighting against gang violence, but they are formed of their own. Both government agencies have been known for having their own gangs that identify one another with tattoos and hand symbols. These gangs “engage in behavior that is brutal and intolerable and is typically associated with street gangs” (

One of the most recent news that hit LA was the discovery that there was a gang within LASD, the Compton Executioners. This particular gang promoted violence on an already vulnerable community and is formed on racist beliefs. But these are the people that are meant to protect us? They had very specific requirements in order to join that pushed racism and required targeted attacks.

The Numbers

California’s systemic racism goes further than just the policing. It is just one of the many factors affecting and creating the carceral state. California holds one of the largest prison populations in the nation. Aside from being the largest, it is also a very expensive “industry” at $132,860 annually per inmate( It is clear where California is investing some tax dollars.

Racial biases manifest themselves in the statistics that form these prisons. The leading populations are Hispanic and Black men, which comes to no surprise to those who grew up in policed communities. According to the Prison Policy Institute, both the populations of Black and Hispanic people in jails and prisons are larger than their residential population. For Hispanics, the residential population is 40% in comparison to the prison population of 45% and the jail population of 47%. The Black population forms 5% of the residential population, but 28% of the prison population and 21% of jails. Races like White and Asian have a larger residential population than prison and/or jail population.

Furthermore, the rates Black and Hispanic men are charged in comparison to their counterparts for similar offenses is alarming. The Judicial Council of California releases a report that shows the disposition of arrests and convictions based on race, ethnicity, offense, and prior record. These reports prove that Black and Brown men not only are being convicted more frequently, but are receiving harsher sentences due to their prior convictions in comparison to their counterparts.

Seeing reports coming from our courts blatantly admitting how much race affects convictions is very daunting. But how does one even reform or fix this? Everybody is always claiming how the system is “broken” and we need to fix it. But really, it feels like it’s working the way it was meant to. It is preying on the most vulnerable and exploiting them. The carceral state plays a key role in breaking up families, attacking communities of color, and finding ways to retain forced labor.

The 13th

The forced labor aspect of the carceral states hints at what slavery used to be. But it seems to be “strongly” protected by the end of the 13th Amendment, “except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.” When looking at the circumstances incarcerated people work under, one realizes how out of touch it is. They are partaking in heavy labor and risking their lives for these jobs. California’s prison system, particularly, is known for its active participation in the Camp Conservation Program where they hire incarcerated individuals to do the heavy work. However, firefighters are making at most $2 per day in this program which is nowhere near a fair wage. Considering the cost of necessities within the institutions, this is not enough. It is almost as if risking their lives is only worth $2. And the worst part of it all, is that this does not promise a job after being released. They still struggle with finding employment even after all their training.


California may be my home, but I will always be very critical of it. To see the effects of the carceral state on communities like mine has always broken my heart. I remember growing up thinking police officers were supposed to protect us. Yet as I grew up, I built a sense of “stiffness” whenever I was near an officer. All my interactions with police officers have always been very hostile. Asking for help when I was stranded led to my friends and I being questioned on whether we had a criminal record. Walking towards a restaurant while a party was being shut down led to guns being pointed at my loved ones and me. Police officers play one of the first steps in the criminal system through arrests, which for communities of color then segways to the carceral state. So who do they claim they are protecting? And is this truly justice?

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r3 - 07 May 2024 - 02:05:33 - DianaAvila
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