All the words, tweets, and bragging coming out of the White House about how tough the new administration will be on crime and criminals, have forgotten a simple but critical idea—where is justice in all these efforts? There’s still hope for justice in America. Recently, the New York Times writer, James Forman, Jr. wrote a great essay about why we should hope for justice in America in spite of all the tough talk coming from Washington. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/25/opinion/sunday/justice-springs-eternal.html?partner=rss&emc=rss
He argues that there is hope for justice because of these reasons:
- Even though our new Attorney General, Mr. Sessions, believes that marijuana is as deadly as heroin and he plans to start prosecuting violators (even though many states have legalized the possession of marijuana, federal law still makes it illegal to posses), in reality most of the criminal justice activities are handled by state and local governments. They also pay for over-crowded prisons and have to deal with the mess that comes from incarcerating low-level offenders when they are finally released. As a result, many states have re-thought the penalties for low-level crimes and how they handle offenders. (Prison vs. probation, for instance) The results can give us all hope for justice in this country.
- There have always been reformers who have advocated a modern approach to the criminal justice system in light of new research. Today, more ex-offenders are coming forward to tell the voting public what it’s like to be incarcerated and its effects on the entire family. Their stories are causing legislators and local boards to re-think the old ideas of how to deal with crime and criminals.
- There’s hope for justice in America because many of the local prosecutors (who prosecute 90% of the crimes in this country—not the federal government) recently elected are open to re-thinking what the impact of a criminal prosecution has on not only the accused but also the extended families—and the cost to taxpayers.
- What about the victims? Shouldn’t we consider their pain and suffering? Of course. But the interesting thing local prosecutors and defense lawyers have discovered is that, if given the choice between prison for 20 years or some kind of rehabilitative alternative, many victims want the criminal rehabilitated. This is great because not only are the offenders treated differently, but victims are also given a role in the outcome of the process—something to give us all hope for justice in America.
If you get a chance, read Mr. Forman’s essay. Instead of the vision of America as a post-apocalyptic wasteland that will be helped only by locking up more and more people that comes from those in the White House, here’s a refreshing essay about the significant changes being made in our local communities. It gives us all hope for justice in America.