Our Justice Isn’t Just

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Boyce JPEGThis is the second post of a series of blog posts discussing what skills and experience we should look for in the presidential candidates. To read the previous post on this subject, scroll down to the post entitled “What Should He Or She Care About?”

In choosing which Presidential candidate we vote for we should try to determine which of them cares most about reforming our criminal justice system, and which of them seems best qualified to do it. The following explains why this is so important.

Our criminal justice system isn’t working. If it is meant to persuade criminals to end their life of crime it is failing. Worse yet, our criminal justice system comes down harder on People of Color than on White people.

For example, let’s compare the U.S. to China. China’s population is much greater than ours. And it is a dictatorship. Chinese citizens can be arrested for saying or writing things that reflect badly on the government or the nation. For example, recently, newspaper writers who described the recent problems in China’s stock market were pressured to stop doing so. Attorneys who represent defendants in court are often pressured, or even arrested, for representing their clients.

Given the above, it is a no-brainer. There must be more people in Chinese prisons than in American prisons. In fact the opposite is true.

The population of China is 1.4 billion. The population of the US is 320 million. So the population of China is a little over 4 times that of the US. However we have more people in prison than they do. According to the Institute For Criminal Policy Research, the number of people in US prisons is a little under 2.2 million. For China, that number is a little under 1.7 million.

People in the criminal justice system of the United States track what is called the recidivism rate of federal and state prison inmates. They track how many released prison inmates commit new crimes and get sent back to prison. According to a recent report of the US Bureau of Justice Statistics, a study of state prisoners from 30 states found that 67.8 percent of inmates were re-arrested within three years of their release and 76.6 percent were re-arrested within five years.

A report From The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, says 61% of the prisoners released from our state prisons are back in prison within 3 years. That percentage makes the word “rehabilitation” a cruel joke.

According to the Ella Baker Center For Human Rights, the federal government and state governments combined spend $80 billion a year to run their prisons. To paraphrase the late flamboyant gay pianist Liberace, “Do you like our prisons? You better. You paid for them.”

The most important goal of our criminal justice system must be the rehabilitation of criminals. This will help criminals make a better more honest life for themselves. That, in turn, will make life safer for people like you and me.

Then there is the issue of disparate treatment of Whites and People of Color. According to the US Bureau of Justice Statistics, in 2014, Black men had the highest imprisonment rate in every age group and were in state or federal prisons 3.8 to 10.5 times more often than White men

and 1.4 to 3.1 times more often than Hispanic men. That same source said that in 2013, 37% of inmates in federal prisons were African American. And yet African Americans are only 12.4% of this nation’ population.

The situation in California is not much better. According to the Public Policy Institute of California, 29% of male inmates in California’s prisons are African American.

We should try to determine which candidate is likely to care about these issues and to do something about the problem.

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