In the US, there are many problems with the criminal justice system. It’s such a troubled system that all you need to do is turn on the news to hear about injustice. In an attempt to bring an end to that injustice, there is a criminal justice reform movement. Learn about the movement and how it aims to change the criminal justice system.
What Is Criminal Justice Reform?
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Criminal justice reform is not about fixing any one issue. Instead, it is a term that refers to fixing all of the major problems with the criminal justice system. There are a few key issues that criminal justice reform focuses on:
Recently, the issue of racism in the criminal justice system has been a hot topic. Over the past few years, there have been several major incidents that brought the issue of racism front and center. There is racism in the system, and it sometimes targets minorities.
For example, one in four African Americans who were born this decade can expect to go to jail. However, African Americans only make up about 13% of the population. It seems as if police are more likely to arrest people who are black than white. While white men do end up in jail, black men are six times more likely to end up in jail than white men. Hispanics are over two times more likely to go to jail than white men.
More black men end up in jails because the police tend to target black men. When the police stop someone, they are twice as likely to stop a black man as a white man. In Connecticut, one study showed that there was more racial disparity in traffic stops during the day than there was at night. During the day, police could see the race of drivers. However, at night, the darkness made racial profiling difficult.
There’s also the issue of excessive force during arrests. You don’t need statistics to know that this is an issue. Recently, there have been several cases of police officers using excessive force while arresting black individuals. In some of those cases, the police shot innocent men.
Despite the prevalence of the use of excessive force during black arrests, white arrests don’t seem to generate that same force. One study showed that police are more likely to use Tasers, pepper spray, and other tools when arresting black people than they would for white people.
2. Bail System
For many, the issue with the US bail system is the system as a whole. The bail system requires you to exchange money for your freedom. However, what happens to the people that don’t have money? They end up sitting in jail, often for minor offenses. Meanwhile, the wealthy are free to walk the streets.
In New Jersey, the court is trying to stray from the bail system. An algorithm analyzes how likely an offender is to commit another crime or skip town. Then, the algorithm tells the judge whether or not he should release an offender. It’s a new solution to a serious problem. Although the system is not perfect, it could be a better alternative to the bail system.
3. Mass Incarceration
Another important point in criminal justice reform is mass incarceration. During the past forty years, the US quadrupled its incarceration rate. Compared to many other countries, the US is quick to put criminals behind bars. In fact, the US has the largest population of inmates in the world. About 2.2 million prisoners sleep behind bars.
There are a few problems with mass incarceration. First, it puts minor offenders behind bars. Often, people end up in jail for petty crimes. Sending them to jail doesn’t make the streets any safer. Secondly, there’s the issue of repeat offenses. When you put a petty offender in prison, it makes them more likely to commit a crime. Instead of jailing them, you could help them.
Fixing the Problems with Criminal Justice Reform
Criminal justice reform is an attempt to fix problems like racism and mass incarceration. However, it’s easier said than done. It takes a great deal of education and advocacy to get people to realize the problems with the system. For criminal justice reform to be successful, there need to be changes in laws.
Those who want reform want to find a way to end the targeting of black individuals. If the police would face more consequences for racist practices, then they might be less biased. Additionally, those who want criminal justice reform want to fix mass incarceration. Instead of sending people to jail for minor offenses, they want to see them in rehabilitation facilities or mental health treatment centers. Currently, the system focuses too much on imprisoning people than it does helping them improve themselves.
Criminal justice reform won’t be easy. However, people are advocating for change. If that change happens, the US could be a safer place for everyone. Defense lawyers wouldn’t need to fight so hard to protect their clients.