The Harsh Reality of Criminal Justice Reform

Photo of Court Building

11/2/2018
Scott MacLean

In researching this article, I wandered through a myriad of opinions in search of facts regarding criminal justice reform. There were many contradictory pieces, citing studies and statistics, that gave the appearance of being predisposed to support a predetermined outcome. But I stumbled across a very interesting post from a person stating publicly why he was leaving Washington, D.C. His article can be found here:

“Well This is Depressing” Article

What I read was in direct conflict with statements made by D.C. Superior Court Judge Truman Morris, extolling the virtues of D.C.’s approach to criminal justice for the past 20 years. So, one must juxtapose the stated successes of the system with those of a tax paying citizen, no longer willing to submit his family to the actual reality of cause and effect. The original article from Washington Post writer Ann E. Marimow can be found here:

Original Article by Ann E. Marimow

Peeling the Onion Back

More interesting than the article, was the responses, on both sides of the issue. Criminal Justice reform methodology may be rooted in very real issues, that are just as valid now as they were when the Vera Institute started 58 years ago. Defendant’s should not be jailed pre-trial for longer than they would have been, had they been convicted and sentenced. Few would argue that point. What we can argue is that there are many reasons for this issue, not the least of which is how long it takes a case to get to trial. The inefficiencies of the court systems cost everyone time and money, and there is no known motivation to fix this. The judiciary can administratively release anyone if they have not made bail, but they don’t, hence the issue.

Who is to Bless, and Who is to Blame?

I stole that line from a Kris Kristofferson song, “Why Me Lord?” Accountability must be a factor, but heretofore has been eliminated from the discussions on any type of criminal justice reform. This accountability applies equally to the defendant and the judiciary. But who suffers? Not everyone can state the issue as eloquently as the gentleman cited above. Most people become victims of their own communities, largely because they lack the funds to move out. But those that contribute the most, take the least. The desire to right a perceived wrong has a threshold. Our criminal justice system is clearly flawed, but we need to address root cause issues. Attacking and eliminating the surety or bail bond businesses is clearly not the issue.

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