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by Laramie Boyd
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Just exactly what does the word justice imply? Retribution, revenge, accountability,
or even having no fear of any harsh treatment for breaking any law, no "cruel and unusual punishment," regardless of the crime? Doing
what is right, or simply going along with whatever power structure is in place? And of course these questions result in raising the
question of the meanings of the words accountability, cruel, unusual, "right," and the word crime itself. For what is the purpose
of a law unless breaking it, resulting in a "crime" perhaps, has some result that attempts to see that the same or other persons do
not repeat that undesirable behavior? In other words, exactly what is the best way to prevent people from committing crimes in the
first place, let alone repeating them, in some cases over and over?
USA today reports that
New York thinks they may be on the right track to curtailing crime, cutting down on jail space needed for the overflowing prison population,
and saving millions of dollars, maybe billions, in the process. The prison authorities feel this is a "chaotic period when offenders
are flooding the criminal justice system."
New York has shut down 24 prisons since 2011.
Drug addicts are being treated as medical problems, not criminals. They are beginning to see "correction" as not limited to incarceration.
They will remove juveniles, pregnant inmates, and the mentally ill from solitary isolation cells. The state believes they have saved
$221 million by the prison closures alone.
More lenient penalties for repeat offenders,
outlawing the death penalty, cutting out mandatory minimum sentences are also being looked at as necessary "changes in penal
philosophy" being crucial to the solution to the problem of over crowded prisons, high crime rates and the staggering $80 billion
per year cost of housing the 2,000,000 inmates in jails and prisons across the country.
Senators Rand Paul of Kentucky and Patrick Leahy of Vermont feel that some of the most extreme punishment policies have largely failed.
Other Correctional and Crime Prevention officials feel that "the application of power without justice is brutal, and there is nothing
democratic about brutality." The state of New York even sees a decline in violent crime where prison population has been reduced.
Of course, this kind of rhetoric is all well and good. It sounds so, so humane. On the
other hand, how does closing down a prison help stop crime, unless of course you redefine crime? Where do all of the inmates go when
the prison closes, to another prison? Or out in the environment that led to their being locked up in the first place? Is leniency
for convicted felons going to make potential felons think twice? Will law enforcement personnel give it their all when they know their
arrests lead somewhere besides court enforced jail time, or any serious punitive action whatsoever? Will police feel satisfied when
convicted criminals end up picking up trash along the freeway for a few days? It's probably bad enough for them when a criminal gets
released over some "technicality."
So, we have marijuana, felt by some to be the gateway
to the "hard" stuff, being "decriminalized," stiff sentences for repeated offenders eased, solitary confinement for criminals recommended
to be used less, the death penalty for murderers outlawed, naming some crimes medical problems, all in the name of "fairness, power
with justice." Wouldn't it be nice if these concepts solved the problems of "unnecessarily punitive" policies? I won't hold my breath,
Does anyone fear the American justice system? Is the country becoming an "anything
goes" environment with little fear of accountability? Do the elected officials that get off soft when caught breaking some laws set
a good example for a country that claims to live by the rule of law? It seems to me that the Rule of Law has to start at the top and
work its way down. In reality there is no uniform Rule of Law. The justice system does not treat people equally by any stretch of
the imagination, and few fear or respect the criminal justice system, and the government is not the least bit interested in changing