I’ve worked in the criminal justice system for almost 40 years. The media constantly tells us how bad things are. Rampant crime, crooked cops, biased prosecutors, and abandoned victims. These seven reasons show why the criminal justice system is better now.
1. The level of serious violent crime dropped to a forty-year low. Check out the FBI statistics. Because the media offers a steady diet of crime news, we all get the impression crime is up.
2. The criminal justice system is more fair to everyone than in the past. Of course, we work to improve how justice is delivered to all citizens. But many changes have improved the system.
3. Here are some of the areas that are more fair for everyone. Particularly, for people of color and poor people. The basis for setting bail has broadened to include different types of backgrounds. The people selected for jury duty now include members of all races and income levels. The number of Public Defenders and their skills have grown. New laws specifically protect defendants from jury biases. (Like race) Community groups monitor the courtrooms to make sure the criminal justice system is fair. Think about Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
4. The judges are more diverse than ever. When I began practice, out of about 70 judges, two were female and one was black. No Asians or Hispanics occupied judicial seats. Today, those statistics flipped upside down. White male judges are in the minority. It’s not that diverse judges are better. But they do represent the community more accurately.
5. The incidences of sexual and personal harassment have decreased. Victims exposed people in positions of power and achieved more power.
6. Prosecutors and police are also more diversified than ever. The prosecutor’s office added trained people to help victims with therapy and preparation for trial.
7. Forensic technology testing helps find the truth. The most significant is DNA identification.
There is still much to be done to improve the criminal justice system. But I’ve seen tremendous progress in the years since I started working as a lawyer in the courtrooms. If you’re interested, I encourage you to take some time off, attend court hearings, and talk with some of the people working in the system. You’ll be surprised at the new quality and high standards.