Contrary to what some may believe – I myself was in this camp upon a time, that the US Criminal Justice System is not broken. On the contrary, it is functioning as intended. There is a myth told; no, worse, than a myth, a lie; that prisons make society safer. With but few exceptions, they do the exact opposite, and the criminal justice system at large is no less evil. The wheel, with all of its cogs, makes the strong stronger, the weak weaker, the rich richer, and the poor poorer. Indeed, it works like a fine timepiece. To describe the system as ever having been just would be a misnomer, but perhaps there was a time when it was closer to that than it is today.
The public is driven to outrage by unnecessary police violence, and they react (sometimes violently) to it. They do so because much of it occurs in plain view and is reported on by the Press and private citizens alike. But let us consider that portion of police misconduct which is not “violent”, but is hidden from the public view (e.g. falsifying reports, planting evidence, lying in court, etc.). Should not the public be all the more outrages by misconduct hidden from them? After all, if the police are so bold as to become unnecessarily violent while in front of the camera, what ravages might they be committing from behind it?
Worse yet, the violence and misconduct committed by the police is but one small piece of a much larger criminal justice system puzzle. Worse by far, because they are veiled from public view, is the US prison systemwith their more than 6,000 facilities, which, along with federal and state prisons, include: prisons in US imperial territories, military prisons, local jails, Indian country jails, juvenile detention facilities, Immigrant and Customs Enforcement facilities, civil commitment facilities, and likely some facilities that are unknown to all but those with a “Need to Know”. Prison operations differ from police operations – and are more dangerous because of this difference – in that they operate in near complete opacity. Prisons match the police in violent deaths at the hands of their stuff, though the public seldom learns of such, and surpasses them by every other measure of misconduct. On average, six people per day (nearly 2,200 yearly) die violent deaths in the US at the hands of police or prison staff, with the split being more or les equal. Beyond this violent death toll lie a large number of deaths that are attributable to neglect or indifference; but in the end, dead is dead. Whether by violence, neglect, or indifference makes no difference, There are other injuries, hurts and wrongs (both physical and mental) that do not result in death.
Does the violence and misconduct stop with the police and prisons? Hardly. These, in fact, are the least of the lot, but what lies beyond is invisible to the general public audience. It is, however, no less real because of the fact. Let us, then, take the next rung on this ladder and consider prosecutors. Of the US’s wrongful convictions that have thus far resulted in the exoneration of the person convicted, prosecutorial misconduct was cited as a contributing factor in more than fifty-percent of those cases. This suggests, at least in potential, that more than half of the prosecutors in the US are harboring questionable ethics. Could any of these prosecutors be acting out of malice? Former Dallas County Texas District Attorney, Henry Wade, has been quoted as saying, “Guilty ones are easy to convict. It takes real effort to convict the innocent.” (Criminal Legal News, vol. 1 No. 13, Dec. 2018, p.38) Does this sound malicious to you?
Further up this ladder we find judges and their misconduct and, further still, we find politicians and other influencers, but their misconducts are harder to identify and even more so to prove. They are well protected and have many minions to absorb the blame.