The criminal justice systems in America is a disgrace. It has targeted minority races and made harmful and embarrassing errors in the process.
America has the largest per capita prison population in the world. 2,220,300 adults were incarcerated in US federal and state prisons, and county jails in 2013 – about 0.91% of adults (1 in 110) in the U.S. resident population and 4,751,400 adults (1 in 51) were on probation or on parole. The US is 5% of the World population and has 25% of world prisoners. (NAACP criminal justice fact sheet).
The criminal justice system is inherently racist and disproportionately harms people of color. African Americans and Hispanics comprise nearly 60% of all prisoners even though African Americans and Hispanics only make up approximately one-quarter of the US population. Most of these offenses are drug-related and current sentencing guidelines for crack cocaine are inherently biased against African Americans. The penalties and mandatory minimum sentences are greater for crack cocaine offenses that powdered cocaine offenses and more crack cocaine offenses involve African Americans. Even still while blacks constitute more than 80% of the people sentenced under the federal crack cocaine laws and serve substantially more time in prison for drug offenses than whites, more than 2/3 of crack cocaine users in the U.S. are white or Hispanic.
The impact on African Americans creates a vicious cycle where black men go to prison and their children are raised without a father figure. In urban areas that are often crime infested they look towards others in the community to be this figure and it’s often neighborhood drug dealers.
Instead of punishing the guilty and protecting the innocent, at times innocent people have been punished for crimes they did not commit.
Other individuals have spent years in prison, only to be released before completion of their sentence amid serious doubt as to whether they were guilty and their conviction was warranted.
This has led to people concluding that “justice for all” will never be; some even become cynical or feel concerned about injustice only when it touches them.
We can better appreciate the challenges of a criminal justice system by considering some causes of injustice and obstacles to justice.
Also, we will note how complex the problem of obtaining full justice is. One major problem of the criminal justice system is the fact that, today, how much justice you get may involve who you are or how much you have.
Attorney General criticized the nation’s system of sentencing criminals as slow, uncertain and unfair, and said it ‘has the attributes of a lottery.’ . . . In one federal judicial district, 71 percent of all convicted defendants go to prison while in another district only 16 percent are imprisoned if convicted of similar charges.”
Those caught up in the system are overwhelmingly the poor, the lower class, members of minority groups, immigrants, foreigners, persons of low intelligence and others who are in some way at a disadvantage. Those who have a good chance of escaping the system are the affluent criminals, corporate criminals, white-collar criminals, professional criminals, organized criminals, and intelligent criminals.”
Because of corruption and incompetence in high places, untold numbers of people have suffered. They have been wrongly confined to asylums and prisons or have even been sentenced to death. Women have been deprived of their husbands’ financial support. Children have been taken away from their parents. Entire estates have been lost to the rightful heirs.
Following a crime that causes public outrage, the police come under pressure to make an arrest. Under such circumstances, individual policemen have succumbed to the temptation to manufacture evidence or to force a suspect to confess.
We must decriminalize the average man. Most Americans do not understand their rights and even when they do law enforcement doesn’t understand them either and/or doesn’t care. The fact is nearly every time you are questioned by the police, including after being pulled over, your rights are being violated and you don’t even know it. Police are trained to manufacture probable cause, prove wrongdoing and make arrests by any means necessary and not to ensure they are following the Constitution and not violating the rights of citizens when they do.
Most law enforcement agencies do not want agents that question whether or not their tactics violate the rights of citizens. This is why many of them intentionally hire less intelligent individuals. Routine example of how your rights are violated and you allow them to be: If you are pulled over for a traffic stop and produce your license, you have surrendered your right to remain silent. If the officer tells you that you have to produce your license, they have misinformed of your rights and therefore violated them.
Voting rights are challenging for felons. They vary from state-to-state but in most states voting rights are not automatically restored upon release from prison and in many places are never restored. Voting rights are key to integration into society and moreover, by denying those who have experienced the flaws with our criminal justice system up close and personal the right to vote it prevents meaningful reforms. In addition, it is against federal law to own, possess or purchase a firearm if you have a felony. It does not matter the nature of the felony, violent or non-violent. There is no limit on this restriction. The penalty for this offense is a generally 5 – 10-year federal prison sentence with the 5 being a mandatory minimum.
Mandatory minimum sentences result in unfair, unequal and perverted justice. It can mean that first time, non-violent offenders can get absurdly long sentences of as long as 25 years or more! There is nothing judges can do about this either, even if they find the sentence to be injustice and unfitting of the crime. Special or extraordinary circumstances cannot be considered under this system. Mandatory minimum sentences do not reduce crime. Mandatory sentencing laws apply almost exclusively to drug offenders. Drug defendants comprise around 60 percent of the federal prison population, up from 38 percent in 1986 when mandatory sentencing laws were passed. The average federal sentence for a first time, a non-violent offender is about 4 years.
Law enforcement agencies across the country have made a practice out of taking people’s property, including cash, first and asking questions later because they can. They then use these funds to purchase things like margarita machines and other items not in the budget. Often in some states, law enforcement has been trained to ask those pulled over for traffic stops if they have a large amount of cash on them and if the person says they do their money will be seized as part of this practice and the odds of them getting it back is extremely low.
We must have criminal justice reform and change policies so that the right of the American people are not being infringed upon.