There are people out there that are fully confident that the justice system is failing, however they are not aware that there are indications that state otherwise. In my opinion the judicial system is not failing, but is actually succeeding.
As the history of the justice system shows, small incremental steps are responsible for the status quo of the justice system and the future of it as well. The media has a lot to add to this ever-growing phenomenon as they present high profile cases on national TV and airwaves. There is always room for improvement and the critics will always find something wrong with the justice system.
In the colonial era of the American justice system there were harsh corporal punishments for crimes committed due to human nature. Sexual crimes like adultery were awarding certain freedoms of personal punishment to the ‘victim’ while the offender was often hanged, drowned, or stoned (Roth, 2005). We as Americans don’t have to worry about that now. For example, such behavior may have a lot to do with divorce proceedings (in some states), but we won’t drown the offender nowadays. Would we?
It wasn’t until about the 1950’s that the states became more united in the betterment of the justice system, which was based on federal laws (Roth, 2005). The changes put in place to make fair decisions, not based on social class and skin color, were not really made until the second half of the twentieth century. Not everyone will be truly satisfied just yet, as their perspectives are not kindhearted or acceptable by their olden standards of ‘”back in my day.”
In the constant battle to become the favorable side, the justice system handles cases of minuscule and mammoth proportions. The media is fully aware of that and usually tries to stick its nose deep into the case of ________ vs. ________.
The Enron trial and the ex-Governor George Ryan trial are some splendid cases to delve into. Sure they are filled with political propaganda and connections reaching your neighbor’s affinity with large pay offs, but these cases are well propagated and gain ratings for the media stations.
What else do these cases have in common? They were tried under the scrutiny of the media and justice critics, but, these and other cases were certainly proved before the courts, punishments were handed down, acquittals were administered, and everyone had their 15 minutes of fame.
I personally think that a lot of Americans don’t have the slightest idea of how times have changed for the better since the inception of first laws nearly four centuries ago, or for that matter, since they were born. I think that the amount of complaints geared towards the justice system is strictly a person’s lack of knowledge about its history. I am certain we would want to have an absolutely fair justice system with drive-thru windows and weekend/evening hours, but the reality of this nebulous dream should be defunct at its root.
There is no absolute fairness in this world, as humans do make errors. Yes, computers make errors, too. We don’t want to leave our freedom to a machine, do we now? I think a little interest in the history of the criminal justice system will definitely shed some light on the naysayer and perhaps will allow that person to appreciate the gigantic improvements made to the justice system. That way, their freedoms and rights can be advocated.
Roth, M. (2005). Crime and Punishment: A History of the Criminal Justice System. Belmont: Thomson-Wadsworth