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Dear Next President,
As time goes on, and our society continues to change, the morals and standards that built this country change as well. The people of America no longer hold the morals that one set America apart as the greatest country in the world. The dwindling of these values has infiltrated into our justice system. The unbelievable process that is now running the courts is horrendously cruel and unjust; it needs to be fixed.
This past summer, my brother was arrested for armed robbery, a crime he committed two years previously when he was eighteen. For three months he sat in jail while my family and I watched helplessly as he suffered, unable to do anything. Three months go by, a lawyer is hired, court dates, a trial, lying and deceit all come and go. This fall, my brother was sentenced to fourteen to forty years jail time. As my family was shaken by this extremely long sentence, questions raced through our hearts and minds: “ Why did the judge give him so harsh of a sentence? What kind of system does this to a person who is so young with so much life to live?” What kind of system? indeed.
In my brother's case, and many other young adults serving the kids to life sentences in prison today, the justice system seems to be working against them. In court cases concerning crimes committed by young adults, many injustices toward them go by unnoticed. The judge does not see past a crime, they lack the ability to judge based on character and the entire context of the story each prisoner has to tell. While broken laws do deserve to be punished, judges sentence our youth to unusually cruel sentences with no concern that there could be a possibility of rehabilitation and growth in the inmate without the need of a life sentence. Lastly, the court’s system of providing adequate counsel and running a functional courtroom is very poor.
Fairsentencingforyouth.org states, “Research confirms that young people are uniquely suited for rehabilitation. Young people do not have adult levels of judgement, and post control, or ability to assess risk. The areas of the brain affecting judgment and decision-making typically are not fully developed until a person reaches his or her early twenties.” Even as youth near the end of their teenage years, it's still quite easy for them to make irrational decisions. However, no matter how serious a crime it doesn't mean that they are beyond help, and deserve to be locked away for the rest of their lives. No one should be judged based solely on the mistakes they have made, because everyone makes mistakes. This, I believe, is most important problem that has shaped the justice system into what it is today. As a result, our sons and daughters, especially African-Americans, are paying the price for it with their lives.
Lack of compassion in a court of law is just one of the many problems that devastates the term “justice” in our justice system The court’s plan of procedure for assigning lawyers to defend our youth needs to be revised and the duties of all officials, including lawyers, need to be clarified and better enforced. One of the main reasons that youth is given such harsh sentences is because of lack of adequate council. “Capital cases are among the most emotionally and financially draining cases imaginable…,” says ACLU.org, “since most defendants cannot afford a lawyer, they must
rely on the state to provide them with representation. And few states provide adequate funds to compensate lawyers for their work or to investigate cases properly. As a result, capital defendants are frequently represented by inexperienced, often over-worked, and in many cases incompetent, lawyers.” This is just one example of how the courts today are failing to do their jobs of serving justice. Not only do defense lawyers show high levels of incompetence, but they also show lack of care towards the defendant, and his/her family. Throughout all three months that my brother sat in county jail, the lawyer assigned to his case met with him and my parents a total of less than five times. His actual lawyer was not seen or heard from until his sentencing date, the first anyone had seen of her since the beginning. In the time between that, my brother was tossed to other lawyers who were not up to speed on my brother’s case. Also, during the trial when two defendants were testifying in my brother’s case, instead of taking notes that could help my brother's case, his lawyer sat reading a book. These injustices that run our courts can and will not be tolerated.
So, Mr. or Mrs. President, it is time for you to act. The system that governs our justice system is clearly failing and needs to be revised so that there is fairness and Care shelter all defendants in a court of law. How long are you willing to let our courts run in this manner, and thus, let our friends and family suffer for it? All of these defendants in the system today, are judged on one of many moments in their lives; one mistake that someone has just happened to catch. No matter how big a mistake, my brother, and all of the youth serving heavy sentences, is still a human being. They all deserve to be treated like one.