The integrity of our criminal justice system depends on the public, and the truth is that we are just not paying much attention. Think about it: when you hear that a crime occurred, and that law enforcement officers have picked up a suspect, don’t you breathe a sigh of relief, “Oh, good! They got the guy!” Of course you do. We all do. That’s supposed to be just the beginning of the process, but we tend to throw defendants over the wall at that point. We don’t pay attention to the investigations, the trials, or the punishments. We assume that our system is the best in the world, and that everything’s running along just fine.
What, then, are we to make of all the recent DNA exonerations?
If our system is just fine, then how did these wrongful convictions happen? What have we learned about how to prevent further wrongful convictions?
And even if our system is the best in the world, is it the best it can be? Is it good enough? How much error is okay, if we’re using it to sentence people to life in prison or death? Or even shorter sentences?
Is it just “them” who are subject to the system? Don’t you have someone in your life who might end up in trouble with the law? — some nephew or friend’s kid? What kind of system do you want for them?
Here are some things to think about: