Criminal Justice Reform – How Do We Tackle That?
Broken Criminal Justice System of the United States of America
Cristal M Clark
As we face racial bias at the hands of the police we must also face Judicial Reform along with Criminal Justice reform. Both our Judicial System and Criminal Justice System in the United States happens to be two of the most broken, outdated and lopsided systems in the world.
In terms of Criminal Justice, in the past few months I have worked with prosecutors and victims of crime and continue to hear about DA’s offering deferred sentences as if they are candy to the wealthy, affluent and the white. On the flip side should someone be black, brown or poor well they are not afforded the same opportunity as their white counterpart who committed similar crimes.
That is completely inexcusable, disgraceful, disgusting and highlights how those that working in the Criminal Justice System, make a mockery of it. I am not sure how many of you advocate for the rights of those who were punished to fullest extent but that maybe did not deserve that, victims or family members of victims, but if you do are not sick of hearing defense lawyers argue that defendants due to status, education or race deserve more of an opportunity than someone less fortunate or who is black or brown?
When you look at reforming the Criminal Justice System, you also have to look at Judicial reform as a whole which is part political, and that is a much more difficult feat to actually accomplish but it can be done.
We need to take away the ability to offer plea deals based off of race, social standing, class and sex. That needs to be taken away right away. Deferred sentencing should only be allowed for minor infractions, deferred sentencing should never be allowed or offered when an act of criminal violence has been committed.
Deferred sentencing in recent years has widely been abused by prosecutors nationwide, leaving victims, revictimized, disrespected and unheard through the process. What is deeply more concerning is the rate at which a deferred sentence is offered to white, affluent males as opposed to black or hispanic males who commit like crimes. What that ends up doing to an offender, if they finish the deferred sentence and comply with everything, that record vanishes from a public records search. I don’t need to tell what that does to someone’s chances of being employed, who was not offered the same grace.
We as a society need to push for reform and change within that system, one of our best opportunities to do that is to vote, Judges are voted for not appointed. Do your homework on Judges in your city or municipality and get out and vote. Another crucial step is having each other’s backs. Seek out victim advocates in your community that don’t work for the DA’s office, most of us will offer our services for free which I know a lot of people do not know about. Your assigned victims advocate through the Criminal Justice System works for the prosecution, the prosecution cares only for a guilty plea, not you, not what you want or what you need much less actually seeking justice as per the guidelines of the law. Seems like that is too quickly forgotten once an offender is in the Criminal Justice System. And, we can push to defund cities, counties and municipalities when the courts in each continually fail at upholding the law and continue to make a mockery of our Criminal Justice System.
Those of us that go into courtrooms are a strong reminder and a powerful one of precisely where the system abuses and misuses its power, how deals are being offered that should not be and how Judges just preside and go along with things forgetting just what our Criminal Justice System is here for. Advocates like myself also fight for those that are facing having the book thrown at them when that simply is not warranted or those that have been abused by the very system they are facing for some type of criminal activity.
We also need to address DA’s and prosecutors who both abuse and misuse their power to offer a deal. We the people, have the right and the power to remove any DA or prosecutor who has a history of giving too many deals to one class or race, who offer deals just to get a conviction, and who are handing out deferred sentences like candy. One of the worst acts of a DA is to give a deferred sentence to someone who commits an act of violence whether it is beating up a neighbor or an act of domestic violence. Too many times later down the road the offender ends up murdering or severely hurting someone else. Yet DA’s in recent years are handing out deferred sentences left and right. DA’s are here to represent the law and it’s victims, not themselves.
We also have to start looking at every law written on the books, many are antiquated and outdated, they make no sense when one looks at the sentencing phase. Laws need to be overhauled and rewritten along with sentencing guidelines.
How deals are handed out and offered need to be handled with strict, constructive and fair guidelines. As Reverend Al Sharpton put it, we need a Criminal Justice System that is a Criminal Justice System for all – not just one race, not just the white race or just black race. Taking that a step further we need a system that no longer offers better deals to the wealthy and affluent over those that are not. No more holding down people just because of race or social and financial class.
Protesting gets the cause noticed but we also need to follow that through with action and a strong commitment to be heard, to have conversations with those we need to, to show up and not put up with injustice and racial bias through our Criminal Justice System and to offer our help in making the necessary and long overdue changes this country needs, most importantly we need to advocate for each other through the process when needed.
Together we are the best chance of making change happen but we have to fight for each other here too without any bias whatsoever.
It’s now a time for action across the board here, we’ve talked on the news and in the streets long enough, now it’s time to start sitting with leaders, prosecutors, attorneys and Judges and make change happen.
Cristal M Clark