Dear Future President,
Imagine you are convicted of a crime that you didn't commit. Imagine you are sitting in a prison cell for nearly a decade with no exit in sight. You are wasting away behind a set of metal bars and eating slop for dinner. Or let’s say you did commit a crime, one that was miniscule. You stole a radio from a car in your neighborhood. You obviously did not put a life in danger, but yet your jail time reflects that of a person who is convicted of homicide. How is this fair? Is this punishment just? It seems that the justice system within the United States needs some work.
The government has always held a process for convicting criminals of their given crime. As it explains on www.findlaw.com, “The criminal justice system is comprised of three major institutions which process a case from inception, through trial, to punishment. A case begins with law enforcement officials, who investigate a crime and gather evidence to identify and use against the presumed perpetrator. The case continues with the court system, which weighs the evidence to determine if the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If so, the corrections system will use the means at their disposal, namely incarceration and probation, to punish and correct the behavior of the offender.Throughout each stage of the process, constitutional protections exist to ensure that the rights of the accused and convicted are respected. These protections balance the need of the criminal justice system to investigate and prosecute criminals with the fundamental rights of the accused (who are presumed innocent).” This process is the same regardless of the type of crime committed. Nonviolent and violent crimes are handled the same in the court of law. By no means should this be acceptable.
Originally, the criminal justice system was even less fair than it is today. Typically when someone committed a crime they were usually hanged or killed. They simply did not have a just way in punishing someone humanly. According to The University of Cincinnati, “The first settlers to America brought the criminal justice system of English common law to our shores. The system was based on the premise of Mens Reas (“guilty mind”) and the influence of the Catholic Church. There was tremendous irony in these practices as so many colonists had escaped England to avoid religious persecution. Colonial laws remained as status quo until William Penn began promoting criminal justice reform prior to the American Revolution. As a Quaker, Penn embraced the necessity of implementing more humane practices into the legal system including the construction of reasonable housing for criminals.” So as you can see, we have evolved quite a bit since the beginning, however we have a far ways to go until we have a just, moral and involved justice system that sends convicts to prison because of a serious crime.
As it turns out, many people are affected by the criminal justice system. Obviously the criminal themselves are suffering the most, and sometimes this is just. However, those who have committed a nonviolent crime are being abused, threatened and judged in jail or prison on an everyday basis. Families and friends of the victims are suffering to. In addition to this, jails are overcrowded, and that in itself if becoming an issue. Currently there are around 84,000 inmates in prison who were convicted of a nonviolent drug offense, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons. This is about 75,000 more bodies, than those who have committed a murder. In addition to this, ¨Drug cases are clogging our nation's prisons. Some 61 percent of federal prison inmates are there for drug offenses, up from 18 percent in 1980. And all this incarceration is doing nothing to solve the drug problem. Many wardens, judges, and other officials know this, but it has become political suicide to discuss decriminalization,¨ according to an article by Bo Lozof, titled ¨Seven Ways to Fix the Criminal Justice System.¨ This proves that as a nation we must look closer at the space, and crimes in order to determine how we can provide a better, more productive system for criminals who choose to commit crimes that are not endangering others.
There are many perspectives on this topic some people think the the criminal justice system is just fine. According to Bo Lozof, he states, ¨How can we reduce the frightening levels of crime and violence that plague our society today? The usual answer from politicians and the media is that we have to be tougher on crime. If we had the guts to crack down like, say, those Singaporeans, then we'd straighten this country out.¨ This statement is bold and does not take into consideration the sheer amount of people in the justice system on a daily basis. Of course the government wants to weed out anybody who does not follow the laws of the land, but I think we are truly doing our citizens a disservice.
Bo Lozof says in the article “Seven Ways To Fix The Criminal Justice System” it states “Drug cases are clogging our nation's prisons. Some 61 percent of federal prison inmates are there for drug offenses, up from 18 percent in 1980. And all this incarceration is doing nothing to solve the drug problem. Many wardens, judges, and other officials know this, but it has become political suicide to discuss decriminalization We need to address these issues in ourselves, our families, and our communities. At the same time, we must press for changes in drug laws. I'm not advocating that we "legalize" all drugs, because it's not that simple. But we do have to "decriminalize" their use, treating the problem as the public-health issue it is. Doing so would have tremendous benefits. Without drug offenders, our prisons would have more than enough room to hold all the dangerous criminals. As a result, we wouldn't need to build a single new prison, saving us some $5 billion a year.” This shows that if we treat the drug issue as a public health issue there wouldn't be so many people incarcerated that aren't violent and prisons will have more money and more room to put violent criminals in prison.
In conclusion, The criminal justice system is unfair because of how they punish criminals for their crimes whether it be non violent or over drug use. We need to fix the criminal justice system because it affects thousands of people in our country. Because of this our jails and prisons are overcrowded and don't have room for violent criminals