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Criminal Justice Reform: The Issues and Solutions

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What are the most significant challenges in criminal justice reform? Is one segment of the population more vulnerable? What about the bail system? Non-violent drug crimes? What are some proposed solutions?

The ethics of criminal justice have long been a philosophical concern of humanity, across the globe.

Between differing views on weightier issues like the death penalty and how to handle things like how we process drug and alcohol offenses, the criminal justice system has been rife with controversy since what seems like the dawn of time.

The Problem: Police Brutality

Unfortunately, the narrative of police brutality has become an all too common refrain. Interactions between police and the public are often misconstrued, in violent or unjust ways.

So often, we hear these reports of police officers responding to a perceived threat through the use of excessive force or pulling out a weapon. Handling threats correctly is one of those gray areas police face on a daily basis, but something needs to be addressed at the core of police training. Whether that’s a more involved vetting procedure, body cameras, or bias training.
Bias training, an idea developed in the think tank, the Center for Policing Equality, seeks to address implicit bias, an issue that seems to affect the treatment of black suspects for the worse.
Beyond developing deeper training to combat these deeply held biases about particular groups, is the need to call the community together. We’ll need to demand greater transparency and organizational change.

Widespread Corruption

Corruption in criminal justice has become a common thread in today’s media coverage. Say, public servants, law enforcement, and military personnel who receive large payoffs in order to look the other way.

So what’s the solution? Can we truly take on corruption? Human rights activists, the government, and the judicial system need to step it up and put measures in place that stop corruption before it starts.

Solutions include a better process for vetting police officers and those on the administrative side of the criminal justice system. Our district attorneys, judges, and government officials need to be held to a higher standard. And, we should shift our focus toward ethics for true criminal justice reform.

How We Handle Substance Abuse

According to the National Association of Drug Court Professionals, 80% of crimes that lead to incarceration were committed by someone under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Many offenders have troubles with mental illness or interpersonal problems. Problems that have led to excessive drinking or drug abuse. Jailing people for crimes committed while under the influence may be justified in many cases, but it doesn’t address the problem on a holistic level.

As a lawyer who handles drunk driving cases every day, it’s easy to see how the US legal system is failing our citizens who most need help.

So, what’s the solution? It’s hard to say. Today, drug deaths are the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 50. And more low-income Americans or those who live on the street don’t have access to the same resources as their wealthier counterparts. This problem extends beyond our judicial system. It’s a national crisis.

One solution would be to allocate public funds for treatment. This means treatment beyond Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous. Rather, a proper rehab program inside or outside of prison.
Many inmates receive minimal counseling from a pastor. Or intervention is limited to the conditional alcohol classes that come with a DUI charge.

There’s also the issue of things like the relative leniency of cocaine possession to crack possession—where the difference in sentencing disproportionally affects black and low-income communities.

How We Handle Mental Health Within the Criminal Justice System

When it comes to protecting people who have a mental illness, it’s clear that our system is failing those who need help most. Getting the mentally ill off the streets is more the goal than protecting them. Sadly, this means many people do not receive proper care.

Without treatment, mental illness can worsen. This means that inmates suffering from depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, and more could spend longer in jail.

The focus needs to be on providing counseling, medication, and supervision to inmates with the care they need.

Final Thoughts on the Problems Facing Criminal Justice Reform

In the end, there’s a lot we can do to enact criminal justice reform.  For starters, helping our struggling addicts and those with untreated mental health conditions. Additionally, we need to address police brutality and substance abuse correctly. If we do not, greater crises loom ahead.

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