Lady justice is always depicted as blind and always heralded as the protector of the downtrodden and the oppressed.
That is no long true in this nation.
For many years, advocates have spoken out for prison reform, criminal justice reform and juvenile justice reform. For many years the voices of these impassioned warriors have cried out about the ills of our justice system. The public did not want to believe that it was really that bad and so the battle for reform has been long and arduous. You see these reform measures come as a matter of public policy. This means that nothing changes until the people ask for it. In the mean time judiciary systems, prosecution and enforcement have continued to empower themselves and dominate (rather than protect) the public.
In Colorado Tim Masters spent 10 years of his life in prison for a crime that he did not commit. That is not the biggest travesty. The biggest travesty is that it took 10 years, public outcry and a forceful group of attorney's to get the possibility of his innocence to be heard in court. Council for Mr. Masters were repeatedly denied access to the courts to demonstrate that the evidence against him used by the DA was incorrect and it was later discovered that pertinent information has been with held from masters attorney's. We have seen all across this nation the number of convictions that have been overturned and innocent men released after YEARS in prison. Many of the men who have been released from Death Row, yet our own Supreme Court takes no caution to protect possible innocence in the case of imminent execution, "The court "has never held," Justice Scalia wrote, "that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who has had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a ... court that he is 'actually innocent.'" Scalia was taking issue with the court's ruling that a lower court give Georgia death-row inmate Troy Davis a new hearing." Troy Davis was executed Sept. 21, 2011 after lifting his head and declaring his innocence one last time. Time Mag - In Death Penalty Cases Innocence Has To Matter
While this may not be unseemly to most, lets take another look. The investigator who framed Mr. Masters was not charged. The DA who prosecuted the case and the judge who presided were not charged, although the public did vote them out of office. They are not held to the same standards as ordinary citizens.
These issues are most prevalent in people of color, poor and JUVENILES. It has gotten so out of control that national attorney's, former attorney generals and constitutional authorities are sounding the alarm. WAKE UP AND HEAR! WE NEED YOUR VOICE! LAW AND DISORDER!
Let's begin the search for justice by taking a look at the current state of justice in our nation. The process and outcome of justice are supposed to satisfy the party wronged, the community and bring some sort of satisfaction or peace to the matter.
As it stands right now, there is no justice. As it stands right now our system is not accomplishing the things it was designed to do. How can we tell? By looking at the health of our communities and the health of the individuals who have been a part of the justice process.
While I get much flack over this, I believe that our current process fails victims and actually brings more harm to them and pro longs the process of healing. This nation has an undercurrent of anger, bitterness and hatred. While many of you will not agree, I ask you to take some time over the next week or so and listen to the conversations of your friends, co-workers and community. You will be hard pressed to find a conversation that does not include sharing the latest situation where some system, organization or individual has wronged them. While this is quite normal and healthy, the statements that follow concerning how "this always happens" or "just when things were getting better this or that happens" is followed by how the perpetrator, whether corporation, government system or individual needs to" pay for what they have done". We live in a state of blame, disappointment and eventually anger and hatred. We are always ready to file a law suit, demand satisfaction and compensation and declare that nothing is an accident anymore. That company, agency or individual inconvenienced our lives and we demand satisfaction!
I have stated in other articles, how the DA's use the emotion of those suffering to further their own cause. They use victims rights groups to sway the outcome of cases and they use victims rights groups to sway legislators. How dare they. Victim's have been through enough and they need to be surrounded, protected and given the tools they need to heal.
However, that healing comes as a choice. The changes in justice practices have to be a choice. I have seen far to many cases of people who have experienced trauma and tragedy who eventually become physically ill. The dis - ease in their hearts becomes disease in their bodies.
There are those who CHOOSE a different path. Not because they are exceptional, not because it was a kinder circumstance but because it is the right thing to do. Gary Ridgway is a convicted serial killer. He took too many lives and damaged so many families. You will see that he is not affected by the hatred directed toward him....of course not....he expects that and has probably lived with hatred most of his life. The only thing that affects him....is unsolicited, unexpected....forgiveness. Forgiveness For Mr. Ridgeway
Across this nation are those authorities who are looking for a better, productive and sensible way to implement justice. In this nation we have stood on our current model of crime and punishment for years. We have filled, built and filled more prisons in this nation than any other nation in the world. Our crime has not diminished and our society continues to be impacted, broken and diminished by those in need of a better direction.
Many are looking for a better way. A better way to answer the harm done to individuals and communities. Something lasting, effective and restoring. This article shows the experience and reform that one man is trying to bring to the table.
Sometime in the near future I will post an article concerning justice, redemption and restoration and reform....from a perspective we may have never heard or understood. Watch for it in the coming days. In the mean time....read on
Courage To Call It!
Many times I am confronted with strange peering looks and poigniant questions when I announce that I advocate for juvenile justice and prison reform. It seems implausible to those bystanders that our system could be as broken as I claim, as outdated as I describe and as destructive as I reveal. The truth is......it is.
Do we need to do something to intervene in the life of someone who is breaking the law? Yes. Do we need to provide re-payment for harm done? Yes. Do we need to deter others from choosing the same path? Yes!
If the current system of arrest, court hearings and prison were effective in addressing the above issue, we would be in a better place. However, as The Pew Charitable Trust reported, we have become a prison nation, a nation that knows how to lock people up but not what to do after that.
Our first issue to address is how easy it is to get arrested. We have laws governing everything with a suitable punishment to go with it. This is especially true when it come to our youth. Our zero tolerance policies in schools make it possible, easy and effective to deal with a truent student. They suspend them or even better we have them arrested and sent to juvenile hall. We have zero tolerance for any mistake a child makes. Try tucking your new knife into your backpack so that you can show your friends at school. You will land in the principles office and be suspended. If boys get into an altercation on the school ground (which boys do) you will be suspended and possibly expelled. At no time in history can I remember when we have placed such harsh regulations on children. Never have we placed such harsh punishments on children.
The result of these policies, laws, punishments and confinement is broken families. Families that find themselves thrown into a legal and justice system that they are not trained to navigate. It is terrifying at the least and destructive to all those involved....from grandma to mother, from father to brother. Yet the greatest harm is to leave a child alone, unprotected, unguided and in harms way as you are forced to leave them at the prison facility.
This week a new report was released that finally takes a comprehensive look at how our current juvenile justice policies actually feed our prison pipeline, destroy families and deteriorate our communities. It also presents viable solutions that can bring restoration to all. Worth the read. Families Unlocking Futures
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