Tuesday, June 6, 2017

If Changes Were to Be Made to Our Legal System...

I was brought up to believe that if I was going to complain about something I should have an idea of how I would fix it if I had the power to change the status quo.  So when confronted by the our current legal system, how it works and how it doesn't work, I started making a list of the things I believe might be better than what we currently have.

  1. No plea bargains - the state needs to prove its case rather than being a bully using multiple charges to coerce a plea.  This would reduce the number of felony enhancement charges filed against innocent people only serving to create notches in a prosecutor's belt when the accused takes a plea.  Ensuring prosecutors would be more choosy about who and how they charge people for crimes.  They would need to carry the true weight of burden of proof, rather than this status quo of bullying people into plea bargains to save them time and make money for the prison business machine.  Even when the prisons are owned and managed by the government they are still in the business of cutting costs. As usual the first to suffer these cuts are not the workers in the prison but the prisoners. 
  2. Sentence restructuring, eliminate the death penalty.  Our courts are not infallible, they are not error free, thus do not really meet the criteria of complete certainty of conviction.  Without complete certainty, it is not worth taking one innocent person's life due to a mistake.  A mistake that cannot be taken back or compensated for.  
  3. Twenty year cap or even twenty-five year cap on all sentences regardless of crime.  No more life sentences.  Far too expensive and it happens to promote a "nothing to lose" mentality in prison which will cause an increase of inmate violence.  With a sentencing cap focus can then be turned to rehabilitation and slow reintegration while incarcerated.  When I picture this I see something similar to Sweden's system of incarceration and reintegration. The place to start right now though, begin treatment for the offender the day they step foot in prison.  Leave no time for them to become a better criminal or learn anything new from fellow inmates. 
  4. Since there will be no plea bargains, always a trial, the jury will be of the peers of that person, based off of their race, color, creed, religion, etc.  It says PEERS, not just 'people'.  So there will be no all white juries convicting some poor African American boy and no all African American juries convicting some poor white boy. 
  5. Offenders, once released from prison, will return to the community to which they committed their crime, unless their support system is located elsewhere completely.  Offenders are less likely to re-offend if they have a good support system nearby that they can lean on when necessary.  It is when they do not have a support system that things can begin to go downhill for the offender, many times landing then back in jail or prison. 
  6. There should be no residency restrictions for any crime.  Unless it can be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that the location of the offender directly contributed to the crime they committed, where a person sleeps at night is of very little consequence. 
  7. If there must be a public registry, make it for ALL felonies not just one.  There are some pretty dangerous offenders out there that have committed heinous crimes that are not listed on any public registry.  We don't know where they live, we don't know where they work, and we don't know the kind of car they drive, this should be a crime right?  When it comes to registries, it is far more about publicity than it is about safety, especially the safety of children.   You want to keep your child safe?  Educate them, teach them about the cruel world we live in, that competition is a real thing and that there are no points for second place, just the drive to want to do better next time.   Registries are as stupid as participation trophies, they are both meaningless and hide the truth.  The truth about registries is that they are so diluted with little to no risk offenders that the nefarious ones will slip through the cracks and have.   The same truth can be said about those participation trophies, they show only that you showed up, not that that you did anything once you got there.  Personally I believe that there is more to life than just 'showing up'. 
The list while short and incomplete, would be a good start to making our country less the incarceration nation that we are today.  Yeah I'm sure we'll beat the planet in number of incarcerated citizens per capita, but if we can begin reducing that number with new initiatives and implementing solutions rather than creating more problems we'd be a pretty good place to live and visit again. 

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