ART BY TIFFANY CHAN
Growing up, I loved watching shows and movies with generic archetypes: a hero and an evil character. The bad guy does his bad guy stuff, and the good guy catches him in the end. The end. This was how I thought the world worked. This was how I viewed my country– the big adults in the courtrooms with black robes will send the bad guys to prison and we get to live a happy life. Sorry, younger me, but unfortunately, this isn’t how it really works.
When it comes down to the court systems of America, justice repeatedly remains unserved because of the corrupt nature of the criminal justice system.
Sentence after sentence, crimes are punished on an unfairly ambiguous scale, from allowing convicts to serve mere months for murder to forcing offenders in possession of drugs to stay in prison for decades on end.
These rash decisions on the judges’ part continuously prove America’s inept abilities when it comes to issuing proper punishment for convicts on different spectrums of offense.
Such blatant ignorance of basic human decency and upholding proper judgment remains evident in the 2016 Brock Turner case, in which then 19-year-old Turner was convicted and charged of three counts of felony sexual assault.
Being convicted of three separate accounts of sexual assault seems like quite a violation worthy of harsh punishment.
Apparently, the court thought otherwise, initially sentencing Turner for six months, which was later further shortened to just three months.
So many similar cases of those accused and convicted getting much more lenient sentencing than they deserve are abundant in America’s court history. And the obvious disregard of the innocent public’s safety doesn’t end in the courthouse: the mundane prison cells scattered across the nation reek of it as well.
After receiving their overly lenient sentencing, American convicts are carelessly shoved by police escorts into empty, dark prison cells, expecting great reform with little assistance.
Inmates are forced from their sleep by a sharp alarm ringing or a careless guard’s blinding flashlight in his or her eyes. They are then forced to dress for the day and be out for roll call within about five minutes And so begins another day in the “life” of an imprisoned.
After a brief breakfast of tasteless food, their day consists of walking about the prison walls, being escorted from place to place, and best of all, “leisure time.”
I use this term, “leisure time” in the loosest way possible. For people like you and me, this means a time of freedom, indulging in fun activities, boosting morale. However, this isn’t the case for the incarcerated. Their “leisure time” is characterized by being let out into an empty space, with only a basketball or, if they’re lucky, some racquetball equipment. Basically, this is the only time of their day when they have the opportunity to be treated at least remotely humanely.
With this gloomy and unproductive living arrangement, it’s no surprise that numerous ex-convicts find themselves on the streets, without a means to start a new life with a refreshed mindset. Some especially unlucky individuals even find themselves right back where their nightmare started: another crime.
And this says a lot about the “corrective” facilities that our country so proudly hails.
Where our criminal justice system fails here is the lost opportunity in prison to nurture a better citizen in our men and women who have done wrong for the country previously.
Yes, these people have wronged our society in one way or another, but we must remember that they are still humans, deserving of equal opportunity for a good life, which is what our nation was founded upon. They deserve a chance to redeem themselves.
By further punishing these people in the torturously stagnant prison lifestyle that our justice system offers today, we are doing our children’s society no good; rather, we continue to release faulty individuals back into the world no better a person than they were before. The bank robber sent to jail returns to society greedier than ever, the murderer more vicious, the rapist more mentally unstable, all because of an apathetic justice system.
This explains the 95% of people released from prison that return to jail at another point in his or her lifetime.
It’s clear that our prisons, the way they stand, almost completely disregard the entire purpose of such an establishment. What are they here for? Our country spends $39 billion a year funding prison. What is all that money going toward? Perhaps, it is time for our government to take a step back and re-evaluate the intentions of prisons.
In 1776, our founding fathers declared that we “establish justice and ensure domestic tranquility.” Have we forgotten our values as a nation? Where is the establishment of justice in our courtrooms, where we send millions of citizens to years, decades, or even a lifetime of prison each year? Where is this so-called “justice” in our country’s biased judgment in criminal sentencing? Where is the ensurement of domestic tranquility in sending those with skewed mindsets back into society to antagonize the innocent yet again?
As I write this editorial, I look at the piggy bank at the corner of my desk. I notice good ol’ George Washington’s face on a quarter, shining back, seemingly ashamed. He would be disappointed that the country he worked so hard to build for everyman is now infested with danger, unconvicted criminals roaming about. I hope to one day spend that twenty-five cents for a good cause, in hopes that it will one day reach our government and improve our expensive-for-nothing prisons.
As a country, we must all advocate for a fairer environment in courts and prisons, so as to bring people out of crime and into productivity by the end of their sentencing. Only with a conscious realization of the true impact that this long-standing problem has posed for our country’s incarcerated and innocent individuals thus far will justice truly be served in the criminal system of America.