Why You Should Care about the Criminal Justice System
Our criminal laws, while facially neutral, are enforced in a manner that is massively and pervasively biased. The injustices of the criminal justice system threaten to render irrelevant fifty years of hard-fought civil rights progress.
The system by which lawbreakers are apprehended and punished is one of the pillars of any democracy. But for that system to remain viable, the public must be confident that at every stage of the process, from the initial investigation of a crime by the police officer walking a beat to prosecution and punishment, individuals in like circumstances are treated alike, consistent with the Constitution's guarantees of equal treatment under law.
Today, our criminal justice system strays far from this ideal. Unequal treatment of minorities characterizes every stage of the process. Of particular concern are the following areas:
- Racial profiling and other law enforcement practices that single out minorities as objects of suspicion solely on the basis of the color of their skin or apparent ethnic heritage.
- The disproportionately harsh treatment of minorities in the juvenile justice system, an area in which especially pronounced disparities pose ominous consequences for minority communities.
- A capital punishment system that provides one of the most glaring manifestations of racial disparity in the criminal justice system.