The criminal justice system in the United States has been plagued with instances of injustice and unfairness, leading to a significant lack of trust in its ability to ensure equitable outcomes. To restore faith in this vital institution, it is important that changes be made to increase fairness within the criminal justice system. Two possible changes include: 1) eliminating mandatory minimum sentences; and 2) reforming juvenile justice policies.
Mandatory minimum sentencing laws require judges to impose pre-determined punishments on individuals convicted of certain crimes without taking into account factors such as intent or the particular circumstances surrounding the case (Mauer & James, 2019). These inflexible sentencing requirements are often criticized for their disproportionate punishment of people of color when compared to White offenders (Mauer & James, 2019). As Mauer and James (2019) argue, “mandatory prison terms limit judicial discretion and lead to harsher punishments than necessary.” This limits the ability for judges to make differentiated decisions based on an individual’s underlying circumstances and perpetuates racial disparities in mass incarceration. In order to create greater fairness within the criminal justice system it is essential that these harsh mandatory sentences be replaced by increased judicial discretion allowing for more nuanced decision making based on each individual case.
Discuss at least two changes that you believe would increase fairness in the criminal justice system.
Juvenile justice policies have also come under scrutiny due recent high profile cases involving police brutality against young Black males (Harris et al., 2020). Harris et al. (2020) suggest that many stereotypically held beliefs about minority youth are embedded within existing juvenile justice systems thus creating implicit bias against nonwhite youth which can lead them down a path toward involvement with law enforcement even if they have not committed any crime or broken any laws.. Therefore it is essential that reforms occur in order for juveniles from diverse backgrounds receive fair treatment throughout all stages of their interactions with authorities including policing practices and measures taken after an arrest has occurred (Harris et al., 2020). These reforms should prioritize providing rehabilitative services instead punitive approaches such as detention centers which further perpetuate cycles of violence among young people living in poverty communities who are disproportionately African American or Hispanic/Latino (Harris et al., 2020).
In conclusion, while there remain numerous issues pertaining the lack of fairness within our current criminal justice system, two potential areas where reform could prove beneficial involve eliminating mandatory minimum sentences along with reforming juvenile justice policies. It is only through meaningful change will we begin restore public confidence in our legal institutions so as ensure safe and equitable outcomes for everyone regardless race or class background.