American Justice System is Seldom Just

Living in the greatest country in the World, (which we do) we expect every system and process in to be the greatest in the World when compared to those of other countries. Most Americans’ default mindset is that America in every area is the best on Earth. That is not so, unfortunately. I won’t analyze every process and system in America, but I want to look at one: the Justice System.

I echo the teaching of many sociologists who say “Standing still in life is not possible. In all of life’s processes we are either moving forward or slipping backwards. Simply remaining at the same life level is not achievable.” No doubt at one time in U.S. history our Justice System was the best there was. I think we have, however, bogged down after a couple of centuries of improving the American Justice system and we are sliding backwards. For the purpose of this discussion we will look at the Justice system splitting it in two: Criminal Justice and Social/Political Justice.

Criminal Justice System

The “Pledge of Allegiance” ends with the guarantee that in America, there is “liberty and justice for all.” Not so in the Criminal Justice system. Until a few years ago I thought the system was clicking along as always, keeping Americans safe from those who take advantage of others by breaking laws. I have tremendous respect for those who serve in the law enforcement community in the U.S. In many ways those are thankless jobs. The horrors they live through at work everyday are mind boggling. And as serious and violent crime in America grows and spreads daily, so does the potential for personal harm for those who serve. When those who have committed crimes are taken off the streets and inserted into the Criminal Justice system, the Justice System “injustice” begins.

First, criminal defense is horrendously expensive. Many criminal defense attorneys recognize the financial opportunities in criminal defense and specialize in that sector. Most attorneys today concentrate on other areas of law that are less controversial, easier to navigate through, and more profitable. Therefore those facing criminal prosecution often find it difficult to obtain the best criminal defenders. Some will counter by stating that every state has an Indigent Defender Division that (for those who for financial reasons cannot get the best representative there is) guarantees everyone facing prosecution are able to get “adequate” representation. With rare exceptions that is NOT the case. Why? Needless to say the list of attorneys excited to perform pro bono criminal services is rather short. I’m not saying there are not many attorneys who practice law because of their commitment to provide their services to any who need them. I am saying that most who enter the practice of law seek areas in which to practice that are more profitable than criminal cases. Most jurisdictions require a certain number of pro bono hours or cases, but the criminal defense work overload in almost every American jurisdiction dictates far less legal concentration on cases that put indigent defendants at a tremendous disadvantage. In those types of cases, almost always all of the elements that constitute a thorough defense are performed at a much lower level for indigent defendants than for those able to pay for private representation. Elements of prosecution like discovery, depositions, filing of motions, managing cases in hearings and actual trial all suffer in the Indigent System.

Why is that? “Follow the money.” Again I am not stating that all attorneys are so greedy as to not care about assuring those accused in criminal cases adequate representation. What I AM saying is that because there is so little compensation in that field with so many cases, most attorneys opt to practice in other areas, and many who do practice there are just getting started in Law.

I will say something that will probably shock many readers: if you are African-American or Hispanic, the American Criminal Justice System does not work as well for you as it does for others. In addition to the reasoning above, minorities constitute the large majority of those caught up in the Criminal Justice System. And typically those are the least likely to be able to afford the best defense. There are many reasons we could discuss for the ethnic disparity in the system, but we will not in this conversation. For discussion simply know that disparity is factual.

On the flip side is the fact that Caucasians who break the law typically have a tremendous advantage in the criminal process. Much of that advantage is a direct result of their ethnicity and the perceptual and real benefits of that: economics being the main one. Odds are that a White man age 18-34 will be able to obtain better legal representation that a Black man the same age because of financial capability. There are dramatic race differences in crime rates. Asians have the lowest rates, followed by whites, and then Hispanics. Blacks have notably higher crime rates. This pattern holds true for virtually all crime categories and for virtually all age groups. In 2013, a black was six times more likely than a non-black to commit murder, and 12 times more likely to murder someone of another race than to be murdered by someone of another race. Attention to race in law enforcement is a natural result of knowledge of these and other crime statistics.

An unfortunate result of these statistics and conditions is U.S. incarceration. One report states that U.S. Whites comprise 64% of the population and 39% of local, state, and federal prison population, while U.S. Blacks comprise just 13% of the population but 40% of those incarcerated. In many states sentences for Blacks and Hispanics convicted of serious and/or violent crimes are stiffer than sentences for Whites convicted of the same or similar crimes. Much of this can be considered as a product of the disparity of justice in the Justice System. I live in Louisiana where I have learned from experience through close relations not just racial disparity but economic disparity in the Criminal Justice System. I honestly believe that here it is possible for someone with a lot of money to escape incarceration or worse for first degree murder. Unfortunately is is “Follow the Money.”

Social/Political Justice System

Disparity and unfairness in this system is not racist. There are everywhere daily examples of political and economic partisanship based solely on political and social standing. All one needs to do is watch, listen, and then chronicle examples of how hypocritical — especially on a national level — Political and Social Justice is processed. In just the past few months we have seen Hillary Clinton walk away unscathed from certain charges for violations of multiple federal laws pertaining to her handling and miss-handling of classified information and documents. Former FBI Director James Comey himself broke several laws by leaking information to a Columbia professor for the express purpose of informing the media of memos the Director prepared after meeting several times with President Trump. His leaking that information violated federal laws. In both of these cases it is highly doubtful either will face criminal penalties.

Other examples of such hypocrisy are the illegal unmasking of Americans’ identities for political purposes by National Security Advisor Susan Rice; former Attorney General Eric Holder ignoring a subpoena to appear before Congress to answer questions under oath for his involvement in the “Fast and Furious” debacle on the southern border; former Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s interference in the FBI investigation of Hillary Clinton by meeting with Bill Clinton, who himself was a subject of a purported FBI investigation at the time into improprieties of the Clinton Foundation. Her doing so violated federal statute as well as Justice Department directives against such conflict of interest.

There are multiple other such cases that are not specific to Party, political affiliation, or office, but most seem to be closely related to or as a direct or indirect result of which political party is in control in Washington D.C. Political Correctness seems to rule the Justice System leaning at the time. But Social/Political Justice is soiled in many of the same ways as the Criminal Justice System.

The Costs of these Injustices

Make no mistake: there is a price to be paid for each Criminal Justice System injustice. Who pays the price? In the case of racial injustice, it seems today that African American males are leading that list. And because of the disparity, many of their families are broken by incarceration. Every member of such a family is forced to deal without that male living in that social group. That man’s incarceration can only enforce in his mind and heart hard feelings of anger, hurt, and abandonment knowing there IS racial injustice at play — even when guilty of the crime. In Society there is very little more hurtful and permanently damaging than knowing simply because of racial disparity one is paying a much higher price than would be paid by a person guilty of identical infractions simply because of their race.

In the Social/Political Justice world the same holds true. Different sets of standards are confusing, unfair, unjust, but real. Knowing the differences and accepting those differences are two different things. Unfortunately, such happenings and their being commonplace for many years has conditioned a large part of the American population to accept these as normal rather than to confront the evil they bring to American individuals, families, and other social groups. Acceptance of these inequities serves to only lower the standards of Justice that were implicitly and emphatically detailed in the U.S. Constitution. Our ancestors emigrated from a society that not only allowed these same injustices, many embraced them. They lived in an environment that had to deal with the results of this acceptance, and they saw it tear their countries apart.

Thanks to the miracle of digital broadcasting, the internet, and the ease of mass communication, these injustices are chronicled daily through television, radio, internet, and print news. Thanks to the creation of Conservative radio and television news and talk shows, the “other” side of political and social injustices are being exposed after years of Americans seeing and hearing only one side of these incidents. No matter what the Mainstream Media think of Americans — Asian, Caucasian, Hispanic, or Black — most Americans when given facts are very capable to process facts and make right decisions.

Many politicians carry forward the same thinking of Mainstream Media and disregard how Americans feel about disparity in the Justice System. They are making mistakes. Leaders in the Asian, Hispanic, and Black communities are awakening to the facts of this disparity and are slowly but surely crafting methods to educate their communities to the real causes of these problems, and are recognizing there really is unfair but real disparity driven by race. But they now realize some of that disparity is driven by political correctness that has become embedded in the minds of those in minority communities.

Remember this: “You shall know the Truth and the Truth will set you free.”

 

 

 


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