The felony “justice” system urgently must be reformed
The current American criminal justice system has four main components: arrest, prosecution, conviction, and incarceration.
On September 15, 2020, the Brennan Center released a report (“BC Report”) with the title “Conviction, Imprisonment, and Lost Income: How Engaging in the Criminal Justice System Deepens Inequality. “This BC report cited FBI statistics showing that at least 70 million Americans have a criminal record, which means they have been arrested for a crime, misdemeanor, or criminal offense.
Lost revenue from incarceration, crime history cripples communities
The BC report also shockingly found that 7.7 million Americans were incarcerated in the nation’s prison system in 2017. 12.1 million Americans have been convicted of crimes but not incarcerated, and 46.8 million Americans have been convicted of offenses but not incarcerated. According to the BC report, the total annual earnings loss of these Americans due to imprisonment or conviction was $ 372.3 billion.
A report from the US Department of Justice in May 2018 found Approximately 68 percent of those released from state and state prisons are arrested again within three years of their release, 79 percent within six years of their release, and 83 percent within nine years of their release.
In July 2020, the American Action Forum published one report (“AAF Report”) entitled “The economic cost of the US criminal justice system. “The AAF report produced four key findings:
- The United States spends nearly $ 300 billion annually on police communities and incarcerates 2.2 million people.
- The societal costs of incarceration – loss of income, adverse health effects, and harm to the families of those incarcerated – are estimated to be three times the direct cost, bringing the total burden on our criminal justice system to $ 1.2 trillion.
- The results of this spending are only a modest reduction in crime, lower incomes for those convicted, and a high likelihood that formerly incarcerated individuals will return to prison.
- The value citizens place on the small increase in deterrence is difficult to quantify, but it must be substantial to bear the costs measured.
The criminal justice system urgently needs reform
This deluge of information presented by these three reports shows the remarkable failure of the American criminal justice system and the urgent, imperative need to reform it. The following cases underscore the failure of the criminal justice system in this country and call for reform of the system that spends it:
- Richard DeLisi: A Florida inmate who is the longest serving marijuana perpetrator in the nation. He spent more than 30 years in prison. DeLisi was sentenced to 90 years in prison in 1989 for attempting to move more than 100 pounds of marijuana from Jamaica to the United States. He could be released next month because of the Covid-19 pandemic. He is now 71 years old.
- Fair Wayne Bryant: A Louisiana African American inmate convicted in 1997 for stealing a pair of hedge trimmers from a white man and serving a life sentence without parole under state “habitual offenders” law. . Bryant’s life sentence was upheld by five white male judges on the Louisiana Supreme Court in July 2020. Eighty percent of Louisiana inmates serving life sentences for habitual offenders are African American.
- Derek Harris: A Louisiana African American inmate convicted in 2008 of selling less than $ 30 worth of marijuana to an undercover officer for selling 0.69 grams of marijuana. He was also sentenced to life imprisonment under the state’s habitual offender law. He was released from prison last August after the Louisiana Supreme Court overturned his life sentence and ordered a new hearing.
- Alvin Kennard: An African American man who spent 36 years in the Alabama prison system for stealing US $ 50.75 at age 22 was also convicted under a habitual offender law. He was released from prison in August 2019.
- Jerry Hartfield: A Texas man who had spent 35 years without trial after his original conviction and death sentence was evicted by a state appeals court in 1980 for deficiencies in the jury selection process. He was released from prison in 2017 after the Texas Attorney’s Office failed to produce enough evidence to try the man again after a 35 year delay.
Life sentences without parole and common law need reform
In one September 2019 Postwe reported the following:
“Not only is justice sometimes blind, but the system that undermines this basis of our democratic society is mostly cruel and unusual.
“From 2017 the Sentencing project reported that nearly 162,000 people were serving life sentences in the US prison system – an all-time high. More than 44,000 of these individuals are serving so-called “LWOP” life sentences (life without parole) – sentences that under no circumstances allow for parole and offer little hope of executive mercy.
“It is amazing that one in seven US inmates is serving life sentences – about 12,000 of them were sentenced as teenagers. Nearly 3300 the LWOP lifter were convicted for nonviolent crimes like Theft of a $ 150 jacket. ”
The above five cases and the staggering number of people sentenced and sentenced to life imprisonment without parole for nonviolent offenses should be one of the first, if not the first, areas in which reforms should be carried out. Laws against habitual abusers and virtual life penalties, as imposed on Richard DeLisi, serve no legitimate penological purpose other than punishment for the purpose of punishment.
Pressure on Biden to keep campaign promises
The incoming Biden presidential administration has promised to address social calls for criminal justice reforms, particularly those advocated by the communities hardest hit by overcriminalization and incarceration.
Harsh conviction and useless incarceration should be high on the list.