With millions of people in prisons, the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Though the current criminal justice system is a result of the actions of many individuals with good intentions, many features of the system violate the principles of a free society. In addition to the high incarceration rate, millions of Americans have a criminal record. The record acts as a barrier to employment and other opportunities in life. After getting out of prison, it is hard to integrate with society, and this raises the chances of engaging in further criminal activities. Reforms in the criminal justice system will help solve these issues.
Understanding the Criminal Justice System in America
Many people and entities have pointed out that the criminal justice system is plagued with racial inequality. For instance, prosecutors take advantage of the unfair minimum sentencing laws to press for longer sentences. You have the right to seek defense services from a Long Beach Criminal Lawyer, but your lawyer will often negotiate for a lesser sentence that can see you enter a guilty plea. Here are other indicators of the ailing criminal justice system in America include:
- Sending people to prison is the first response for the U.S. criminal justice system instead of being the last option
- Every year, the criminal justice system sends thousands of pregnant women to prison
- Majority of prisoners in the United States are aging and will be over 55 years by 2030
- Prosecutors have vast discretionary power, and they use this power to put people in prison for longer terms than necessary
What Does Criminal Justice System Reform Entail?
Criminal justice reform entails using advocacy and litigation to end the high number of prisoners in the U.S. justice system. The reform comprises a nationwide initiative at different government levels, aiming at reversing the system before it becomes worse.
It may not be possible to achieve 100% perfection in the criminal justice system. However, a few changes would go a long way in fixing the errors in the system. Here are various ways of improving the criminal justice system:
- Reduction of severe prison sentences
- Providing opportunities for the rehabilitation of offenders, especially if the offender is a juvenile
- Creating opportunities for previous offenders by changing policies surrounding voting rights and food assistance programs
- Altering the current minimum sentencing laws
- Making changes to the sentencing policy revolving around the war on drugs
- Decriminalization of various laws, including drug policies
- Offering offenders redemption and rehabilitation at the end of their prison sentences
What will the Criminal Justice System Reform Achieve?
America contributes to around 5% of the world’s population. However, of all the prisoners in the world, 25% are in the United States. This is an indication of the high incarceration rate of the U.S. criminal justice system. The U.S. addresses crime by putting people behind bars instead of using other effective ways of addressing crime. Here are some of the changes that a criminal justice system reform can achieve.
Reduce Overcrowding in Prisons
Currently, the population in U.S. prisons is higher than ever. A large number of prisoners overwhelm American prisons, which are not designed to handle this large number of prisoners. The high number of prisoners also burdens the taxpayers who provide funding for the system.
The majority of people in prison are nonviolent offenders. The overcrowding in prisons also results from the vast incarcerations involving unfair drug charges. The strict drug laws overlook the fact that drug addiction and mental illness issues drive many drug offenders.
Effective Rehabilitation of Ex-offenders
In the current criminal justice system, there is no established way of rehabilitating ex-offenders after they leave prison. Due to ineffective rehabilitation efforts, many prisoners stay in prisons for too long. Upon release, the majority of the prisoners end up going back to prison, mainly because society rejects and discriminates against them. Reforms can facilitate funding of ideal educational and rehabilitation programs for prisoners and rehabilitation staff.
A Change in the Minimum Sentencing Laws
Criminal justice system reforms can bring a change in the unfair minimum sentencing laws. Different crimes come with a defined number of years you would serve in prison if found guilty. Prosecutors manipulate the minimum sentencing laws to threaten defendants with long prison sentences.
Even though your Long Beach Criminal Lawyer can negotiate with the prosecutor for a shorter prison sentence, this often comes at a price. For instance, you might have to enter a guilty plea that would show up in your criminal records. We need to have fair minimum sentences so that prosecutors cannot take advantage and press for unfair, long sentences.
Minimum sentencing laws involving drugs account for the highest incarceration levels in the U.S. For instance, a minor drug offense can earn you many years of imprisonment.
The harsh sentencing laws are mainly against people of color and poor people who cannot afford to seek legal representation. Reforms in the criminal justice system can amend the minimum sentencing laws and give even the less privileged people a chance to access their Long Beach Criminal Lawyer.
We All Have a Role to Play
Both individuals and organizations have a significant role to play in advocating for criminal justice system reforms. It all starts by creating awareness in society and the government. You, too, can play your part in making the criminal justice system better.