Code of Hammurabi: A Modern Babylon

The Code of Hammurabi specifically constitutes punishments for people based on their social classes in the hierarchy. Unfortunately, through the Code, it is evident that people in a lower class or a minority, suffer from more crude punishments than those in higher classes. This Code is one of the earliest examples of a person being considered innocent until proven guilty. Based on the Constitution, most of the codes listed in the Code of Hammurabi would be deemed illegal however, there are some similarities in the punishments.  There are modern examples of a crime that was punished disproportionately because of a person’s race and economic status.

Over a period of time, there have been numerous examples of crimes that were punished disproportionately because of race and economic status. In 2013, rich caucasian teenager Ethan Couch, was involved in a fatal car accident,killing four people. Normally, one would be convicted for vehicular manslaughter due to drunk driving. Also, this conviction holds a twenty-year sentence. According to NewsFeed: The Affluenza Defense, instead of receiving this lengthy sentence, he was awarded with only ten years probation.

At the age of nineteen, African-American Ramad Chatman “was convicted of breaking and entering for stealing a television worth $120… He was identified later without the knowledge that he was a suspect.” According to The Root, court papers show he paid his restitution and attended every hearing. During the trial, there was no evidence found for the case; no weapons, no video, etc… Based on this article, there is not enough evidence to prove he was a suspect in this crime. Chatman was found not guilty however, he was sentenced to seven years in prison.

These cases are proof that race and economic status are less of a priority for African American people. Using the cases listed above, a rich caucasian teen who killed four people while being under the influence received a lesser sentence than an African American sentenced to seven years in prison for stealing with minimum evidence. This is unfair treatment and punishment based on race, as well as economic status.

Overall, our laws are not different from those of Hammurabi in the sense that if you commit a crime or hurt someone, you have to pay for what you did by facing the consequences. However, as you delve deeper into each law, the laws are noticeably different. For example, if a woman hates her husband and does nothing wrong but she is neglected by her husband she will leave and live with her father. Nowadays, that may happen but, usually the couple will get a divorce if the marriage fails. Another example in the Code that mocks the punishments in third-world countries, is “if a man has destroyed the eye of another man, his own eye shall be destroyed.” In third world countries, it is very common that if an individual steals something, his hands will be cut off, or if a man were to rape a woman, his genitals would be cut off. Most of the code listed follow the same principles of our laws now, but the actions now are less abrasive than the Code of Hammurabi.

Ways to improve the system involves reconstructive efforts to habitualize substantial punishments to everyone no matter the race or social status. It is indisputable that race plays a major factor in our court systems. I believe it is best for prosecutors and judges to be given information blindly, without knowing the race and economic status of the individual prior to making convictions. This would result in a more fair and unprejudice punishments for all. 

— Kolbi-Monet Green

Word Count: 600

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