Emelia T. Michigan

Criminal Injustice

An urgent letter examining the many cracks in the once rigid structure of the criminal justice system.

Mr./Mrs. President,

The justice system should be based upon fairness, rehabilitation, and redemption. Correctional facilities are now known for their unflinching ability to strip the human soul from its body, and crush every crumb of humanity left behind. The common pattern of innocent civilians being subjected to the traumatizing and violence-provoking environment of US prisons has more than not resulted in the eventual degradation of those who entered prison as criminals of minor offense or innocents. Prisons have become holding cells, no longer based upon rehabilitation and eventual re-entry into society. They are simply storage. Criminal justice in the US has been morphed with discrimination, lack of evidence, bias and corrupt prosecutors/officials. In order to decrease crime and reduce our amount of innocent people incarcerated, we need to reform the justice system for the safety of all those concerned.

1 in 31 people in the US are in prison. Some may think this is a positive statistic, that we are protecting the public from harm, some may be completely appalled by it, but 1 in 31 people are in jail. The world, although a messy and bloodstained home, isn't hopeless, and surely doesn't raise criminals. When young adults make mistakes, as young adults do, their lives are forever altered, some screeching to a halt. If a young black man is caught dealing drugs to help support his family, putting food on the table, all his good intentions are dumped down the drain and he is left to rot in jail for 10 years, for the sole reason of caring for his family. A white male rapist who harms and sexually assaults women, is given slack. “It's just his urges as a man.” He gets 10 months in jail. How is physically assaulting someone less of a crime than dealing drugs to consenting adults? Some can counter this argument with the obvious fact that drugs are dangerous not only to a person’s health (mental or physical) but also alter a person’s will and actions, which can threaten the lives of civilians. I am not condoning or approving the use of drugs. I am comparing the controversial punishments and stating what I believe we should do to improve racial bias in the justice system through everyday examples of hard decisions.

The mental health of offenders is hardly taken into consideration by officials, and the lack of caution used in handling trials and the punishment that follows can often worsen the condition/issue. Although many argue that the offender clearly did commit a crime to put them in that position, the consequences that follow will do no good to the health of the offender or the improvement of society. 60% of offenders are arrested for nonviolent offenses- many driven by mental illness. In prison, a cold stone cell does not do what the very system is based upon, which is rehabilitation and redemption. Instead, they are left to wither away and be forced into the sometimes violent and harmful communities that are intended to be correctional facilities. A person with a mental illness is no different than a physically unwell person. When someone is physically ill, they are often removed from the environment, to prevent the spread of the sickness, and to treat and improve their condition. Mental illness can alter the actions or thoughts of a person which can be spread throughout the prison, the overall environment growing infected with negatively, much like a physical disease. Mental illness also diminishes a person’s health, but is not recognized by officials because their physical health is seemingly normal. Mental illness and an unsafe environment can lead to the worsening of an individual’s condition and the possible change from nonviolent to aggressive and a threat to others.

People of color are more likely to become entangled in the criminal justice system due to the unfaltering racism of officials. We, as a nation, claim to not discriminate based on race, but are again and again proven to be unable to hold our promises. 1 in 3 black males born in 2001 will go to jail at some point in their lives if current imprisonment patterns continue. Not only does imprisonment restrict you during your sentence, but it also brands you with a mistake you will carry forever. Former convicts struggle to find employment and housing. This only reinforces the fact that correctional facilities are, even by name, supposed to rehabilitate and improve one’s character and choices. If prisons did what they were intended for, we wouldn’t see former convicts in a negative light, like we do now. 59% of people incarcerated who struggle with said issues are people of color, many of which, have been the victim of racial bias. African Americans are 2.5 times more likely to be arrested than whites. How did our justice system stray so far from its namesake?

Criminal justice in the US has been morphed with discrimination, lack of evidence, bias and corrupt prosecutors/officials. In order to decrease crime and reduce our amount of innocent people incarcerated, we need to reform the justice system for the safety of all those concerned. If you, the President of the United States and one of the most influential people in our country choose to ignore the growing issues in our justice system, the problems will only increase. How long is it before most of our country is locked away, and we become a shadow of what we once were?

With utmost concern,

Emelia Tombrella


PoseLab, By. "Our Broken Justice System." The Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Oct. 2016. <http://fairsentencingofyouth.org/the-issue/crime-and-safety/>.

Hagler, By Jamal. "8 Facts You Should Know About the Criminal Justice System and People of Color." Center for American Progress. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Oct. 2016. <https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/race/news/2015/05/28/113436/8-facts-you-should-know-about-the-criminal-justice-system-and-people-of-color/>.

"Youth Crime." K EY F ACTS : Y OUTH IN THE J USTICE S YSTEM (n.d.): n. pag. Campaign for Youth Justice, 2012. Web. 30 Oct. 2016. <http://www.campaignforyouthjustice.org/documents/KeyYouthCrimeFacts.pdf>.

"Montana Abolition Coalition." Montana Abolition Coalition. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Oct. 2016. <http://mtabolitionco.org/issues/problems/>.

Webb, Sen. Jim. "Why We Must Reform Our Criminal Justice System." The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, n.d. Web. 30 Oct. 2016. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sen-jim-webb/why-we-must-reform-our-cr_b_214130.html>.

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