Peace & Police

PEACE & POLICE is a nonviolent campaign for social change, aimed at restoring trust and respect between our communities and our police. This campaign is the work of students at Virginia Union University who are majoring in Criminology and Criminal Justice. Many of us will eventually have careers in the field of law enforcement and policing and we want the relationship between the police and our communities to be strong. This Peace & Police campaign is where we offer our thoughts and ideas about how to make this relationship the best it can be.
JOIN THE CAMPAIGN

Do We Need Criminal Justice Reform? YES!!

Mar 11, 2016 | by admin

It seems that those in the criminal justice system are unaware of the severity and impact of mass incarceration, and because of that, little effort is being made to correct this problem. Quite frankly, I am tired of it! We need criminal justice system reform!

The criminal justice system exhibits many flaws that infringe on the civil liberties of the people it is designed to protect. Some of these flaws include, high incarceration rates, the misuse of police powers, wrongful convictions and extreme sentencing. These unjust actions have an effect on many people. As a result, we need criminal justice reform to better the system.

Criminal justice reform focuses on fixing the errors within the system for the better. We need a change in incarceration rates because statistics show that the United States has had the highest incarceration rate since 2002.[1] It seems that those in the system are unaware of the severity and impact of those numbers, and because of that, little effort is being made to correct this problem.

The misuse of police power is also a flaw. As John Dalberg Acton once said, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Gradually, over time police power has changed for the worse. Police officers went from apprehending criminals through preventive patrol systems such as a night watch to apprehending criminals with their hands, and using weapons when they are not needed.

Officers are supposed to use the tools given to protect themselves if needed, granted. The problem arises when police officers abuse their power. According to Mint Press News, police in the United States killed 776 people in 2015, and 161 of them were unarmed.[2] Although I am aware of the police reform, I still feel as though enough is not being done on the issue. I constantly hear about people being killed by an officer because the officer felt “threatened” and then got off easy because of the position and power they have over us, the people. Quite frankly, I am tired of it!

The National Registry of Exoneration says that 87 people who were falsely convicted of crimes were exonerated in 2013, four more than the year 2009. Since 1989, many wrongful convictions have been caused by police misconduct, primarily related to planted evidence.[3] Wrongful convictions not only look bad for the police officers and judges involved, it also takes a huge toll on the person who was wrongfully convicted.

We need reform in this area because imprisoning people for X number of years to later find out they were innocent is insane. I also feel that having the ability to imprison someone, over nothing, even when there is a lack of evidence, gives police a greater sense that they own this power.

Lastly, extreme sentencing needs reform. I feel as though people who commit minor offenses should not receive these extremely long sentences. It is no secret that judges will give an individual two massive sentences. For what? To ensure that they will never see the outside of a cell again? It’s just a bit too harsh if you ask me, one suitable sentence is enough.

As previously stated, criminal justice reform is very much needed because the system is truly unjust. It is made to protect us but how protected are weif we go to jail for being both truthful and untruthful, with little to no consideration of an individual’s feelings. The system needs to be more aware and be more open to the different reforms that will greatly decrease the issues mentioned.

We have a punitive justice system but there is another choice, we can create a unitive justice system. Focusing on unitive approaches rather than retribution will bring about positive change in the U.S.

 

[1] Tyjen Tsai and Paola Scommegna “U.S. Has World’s Highest Incarceration Rate,” Population Reference Bureau, at http://www.prb.org/Publications/Articles/2012/us-incarceration.aspx#.VtWefQ5fEm4.mailto.

[2] “776 People Killed By Police So Far in 2015, 161 Of Them Unarmed.” Mint Press News, 2015, at  http://www.mintpressnews.com/776peoplekilledbypolicesofarin2015161ofthemunarmed/209127/.

[3] “Record Number of Wrongful Convictions Overturned in 2013.” CBSNews.com, at http://www.cbsnews.com/news/record-number-of-wrongful-convictions-overturned-in-2013/.