WELCOME TO THE 21 DAY EQUITY CHALLENGE DAY 15!
THE JUSTICE SYSTEM
“Justice is not a legal matter, it’s a human matter.” -Abhijit Naskar
What do you think about when you consider our justice system?
Is it prisons? Is it police? Is it judges? The answer could be any of the above or none of the above. The justice system is a set of legal institutions for enforcing actions deemed illegal under local, state, and federal criminal laws. The institutions that enforce those laws are the police/sheriff, prosecutor’s offices, courts, prisons, and parole offices.
The greater question may be, “What is justice?” Justice is the principle that people will receive what they deserve without favor towards any one person or groups of people. While we hope that our system of justice is blind and fair, there are many who believe that since its inception, our justice system has not been fair; it is biased against persons that are not affluent, and favors persons of Western European descent, i.e. white Americans.
Did you know?
Nationwide, Black Americans are more likely than white Americans to be arrested; once arrested, they are more likely to be convicted; and once convicted, they are more likely to experience lengthy prison sentences. (Source: The Sentencing Project)
Black adults are 5.9 times as likely to be incarcerated as whites, and 1 in 3 Black men are likely to go to prison in their lifetime compared to 1 in 17 white men. (Source: The Sentencing Project)
Black adults make up 13 percent of the U.S. adult population, yet they account for 30 percent of those on probation or parole. (Source: The Pew Research Center)
So, is it a systemic issue or a personal issue? Several research studies suggest that the issue is much bigger than the individual. For example, a study by Stanford University analyzed millions of police stops in the top 100 U.S. cities. They found that police stops and searches suffered from “persistent racial bias” and that Black drivers were less likely to be stopped after sunset when a ‘veil of darkness’ masks the color of skin, suggesting bias in police stops. There are several other studies that have analyzed the racial bias and disparities in jury selection, sentencing, the death penalty, school suspensions, etc.
“Slavery didn’t end in 1865, it just evolved” -Bryan Stevenson
There is an undeniable historical link between racial injustice and our criminal justice system. Considering everything happening in our country regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and social unrest, now is the perfect time to reimagine the kind of criminal justice system we want for our community. Neutral policies will not address systemic problems. Systemic problems require systemic solutions and because a system is comprised of people, we all have a role to play in making it fairer for everyone. Racism did not happen by accident so it will never disappear on its own. The only solution is to be proactive with equitable laws, policies, and practices that eradicate racism at its socio-economic core.
Check out the links below to learn about our criminal justice system and think about the role you can play in making a system that is fairer and just for all.