It’s a phrase that underlies the very foundation of our nation, drawing people in from all corners of the world. It is the idea that stands at the forefront of the United States’ promise of equal opportunity. And, most importantly, it is the final phrase of the pledge of allegiance: justice for all.
But, for so many people charged with crimes in the United States, this phrase has, time and time again, proven to be false.
In a long string of recent unjust sentencings for criminals in the American justice system, perhaps the most recent high-profile incident is that of Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman. In his case, the injustice of the court lies on a premise of biased under-sentencing.
After being convicted of a count of financial fraud during his time serving under the President, the federal court members present at the hearing opted for a drastic cut in sentencing time. In fact, this cut was so drastic that rather than receiving the standard 19 to 24 years of jail time for crimes of similar severity, Manafort received a meager four years.
Yet, even this excessively lenient sentencing seemed to strike a chord among the swarms of reporters and lawyers waiting outside of Manafort’s hearing, demanding that he should get an even lighter sentencing than what he already received.
When put into perspective by comparing Manafort’s convicted crime and its respective sentencing, it’s no surprise that citizens across the nation are riled up over the lack of judgment that the federal courts had when issuing Manafort an almost non-existent sentencing for such a high-scaled crime. After all, Manafort’s duty during his time serving for the United States government was to protect and to help our country and all of its innocent citizens.
Despite understanding this one clear goal of his service, he did exactly the opposite of helping those he was to represent.
So why should such a higher-profiled, federally impactful man convicted of crimes that, for so long, jeopardized the well-being of our country as a whole, be so quickly excused of his crimes without having to even serve a quarter of the standard minimum sentencing for the crimes of which the court found him guilty?
Although this case exemplifies a reversed criminal injustice incident because the person convicted was let off after trial on a far less severe punishment than should have been issued, this isn’t a one-time happening in the America law system.
Since Manafort’s oddly light sentencing, investigators from across the nation dug deeper into recent federal court cases of similar circumstances as those of Manafort: wealthy, influential white male convicted of fraud. What they found was horribly unsettling.
Manafort’s case is far from unique. In 2017, over half of the federal court cases that found the defendant guilty of a fraudulent charge, such as that of Manafort’s, were sentenced to less time than the standard amount suggested.
While this case may seem a joyous outcome for the individual involved, as well as his mindless, ethics-deprived supporters, most other examples of a court’s injustice to convicted individuals are definitely not. In fact, racial prejudices may have also played a heavy role in the lenient decision of Manafort’s sentencing. In recent years, during President Trump’s time in office, the racial disparity between African-American convicts and their white counterparts have shown to be extremely drastic, with African-Americans often getting sentenced for at least twenty percent longer than fellow white male convicts of the same crime.
But race isn’t the only injustice card that federal court judges have been playing in favor of those like Manafort; societal status and class seems also to play a significant role in the menial sentence dished out to fortunate white male criminals.
While high-order government officials who are committing dirty, deceitful acts that endanger our entire nation get only a few years in jail, other criminals who are poor and lowly ranked in society get a far longer sentence.
For instance, there have been countless people of African descent who were wrongly convicted of crimes varying in severity from just a few years too many to even receiving a wrongly accused death sentence. And when these people are suffering in jail for crimes that they did not commit, without anyone giving them a voice to prove themselves innocent again, people like Manafort who are blatantly guilty of highly devastating crimes are let go of their crimes without question, despite an overwhelmingly large amount of evidence piled against him.
So far, it seems that while the American public recognizes these obvious faults of our country’s justice system, those at the top have yet to do the same. With even President Trump stating that he “feels bad” for Manafort and the sentence that he has to serve for his criminal charges, it is clear that reform in our justice system starts from the top.
Only with government officials who will own up to their wrongdoings will our country continue to strive in an honest, goal-driven path.