Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Want A “Justice” System? End Four Wack Practices

The other day I came across an article talking about ways to fix the U.S. penal system—the prison system specifically. The article concluded that the U.S. prisons were vastly overcrowded and that minorities were disproportionately represented in the prison populations and recommended several courses of action such as greater access to drug treatment. This is nothing new.

But this got me to thinking. What are the real day-to-day practices and therefore the real issues that are putting minorities behind bars at a disproportionate rate? I set my mind to thinking and came up with four practices that must end if the U.S. Justice System is to really dispense justice.

Like It Wear It!

It isn't you know. That said; here are four practices that simply must end.

End racial profiling. You know, “driving while black,” “shopping while black,” “flying while Muslim,” etc. End it all. Did you know that using racial profiling to interdict highway-bound drug couriers is ineffective? A study done by the Department of Justice in 1999 revealed that officers focused more on African-American and Latino drivers. However, drugs were found more often when they searched whites (17%) than when they searched African-Americans (8%).

End Crack and Powdered Cocaine sentencing disparities. Why in the world would two people get entirely different sentences for possessing the same amounts of powdered versus crack cocaine? They do. Sentences are much harsher for the possession crack cocaine. And by the way, because it’s cheaper, blacks are far more likely to use it.

Don’t give time for minor crimes. The majority of inmates in prison today are there for drug use and small time street dealing. We need to reduce the use of prison for low-level drug offenders and to increase the availability of substance abuse treatment.

Have you heard of “Sexting” – the exchange of explicit photos and videos via mobile phone? It’s the in thing with teens now. In several states it’s a crime. Participants can be charged with child pornography, convicted as sex offenders, and have to register as such for the rest of their life! This is another example of how some states and courts are overreacting and unnecessarily increasing prison populations.

Ensure all defendants have adequate pretrial counsel. Minorities, who often cannot afford lawyers, are disadvantaged in the pretrial process because of the ineptness of their public defender: often grossly unprepared, poorly trained, lacking resources and experience.

Point is, if just these four things were corrected, we would see fewer minorities in the “system” and therefore in jail.


Anji said...

I remember at my children's school the kids who got busted for drugs were the white middle class ones with professional parents - They were the only ones who could afford to buy drugs - I think the rest were too busy saving up to buy beer!

I knew a lawyer who used to defend poorer defendents, he was overwhelmed by amount of work he had to do and the lack of resources. He always did his very best for his clients...

Iam Robert said...

Hi Anji!

Welcome back, I’ve missed your insights.

Yes, that's the problem with any type of profiling: not all folks are the same. Many in this country feel that by focusing on local street dealers and users for instance, the criminal justice system is either missing the point or prejudiced. The reason for this is that the bulk of drugs are brought into this country by the "well to do" folks who have the power, leverage, and knowledge to do so.

In the housing community I used to work in, you saw countless high-priced cars from the "white" side of town or the local university. Yet, no one ever stopped them--they couldn't all be there to do social work!

And your point of public defenders lacking resources is a problem here. I'm sorry to see it's a problem in France also.

What solutions are social activist in France pushing for?