Justice is supposed to be blind. Justice is supposed to be balanced. Justice is supposed to be fair. It is supposed to be. Sometimes it isn’t. While no one will argue that the rights of the victims should be unprotected, it is also important that justice be blind, balanced, and fair to the accused or convicted as well.
The simple truth is that justice is harder to come by for those who don’t have money. Wealthier people are better able to defend themselves when charged with a crime. Having a good lawyer can make the difference between having a lengthy prison sentence or probation. It sometimes can mean that the charges are dropped altogether. Some people of means are even able to avoid arrest or prosecution in the first place. The poor are at a substantial disadvantage when faced with a legal battle. Too often, having a public defender means asking how long the prison sentence will be instead of asking will the defendant be found innocent. When this happens, justice isn’t blind. Only the wealthy are seen. The poor are invisible.
Justice struggles to be balanced. If you pay attention, you will hear case after case on the news of murderers receiving lighter sentences than robbers. Sentences for the same crimes can vary from county to county. It can depend on which judge hears the case. It can depend on what neighborhood a crime takes place. It can depend on how much publicity a case has gotten. When a robber gets more prison time than a murderer, it makes you wonder if taking peoples’ money isn’t considered more serious than taking their life. An assault can land someone more prison time than a murderer. Hurting someone is terrible, but is it worse than killing someone? Yet discrepancies in sentences happen regularly.
Justice should be fair. Given the fact that the poor are underrepresented legally, and given the fact that sentences can vary so widely, justice has a difficult time being fair in our current system. What can be done about it?
One thing that can be done about it is to reform the Truth in Sentencing Law. First time offenders for Class A felonies (which includes robbery and assault) currently must serve 85% of their sentences before being considered for parole. Is it right for a first time offender, someone who has no prior history of criminal behavior, to be housed for decades with truly hardened criminals? Prolonged exposure to the prison environment is not going to rehabilitate those first time offenders. It is more likely to have the reverse effect on them.
You have the ability to change things. You can help justice be blind, balanced, and fair. Contact the legislators who make the laws. The courts can only carry out the laws legislators have created. The power is in your hands to improve the current system we have. You can support legislation that gives first time offenders the ability to earn release at 50% of their sentences through proof of good behavior. Give first time offenders convicted of robbery and assault the ability to show that they can be productive citizens again.
Giving first time offenders an incentive to be better people will pay off by encouraging true rehabilitation. It will make prisons safer. Inmates will have a reason to be good. The vast majority of them will be released back onto our streets at some point anyway. Why not give those most likely to reform that opportunity?