Blind Justice in America

Source:  San Francisco Chronicle     Los Angeles Times

On Wednesday, August 30, 2017, Sacramento County Sheriff’s Deputy, Robert French, became another victim of a failed justice system he swore to uphold.  It is infuriating to hear about the death of another law enforcement officer from a career criminal, especially one who has a known violent criminal history.  Our system of justice across the country seems to be blind when dealing with career criminals.

The frustration in hearing sad news like this is how an individual with a criminal history of violence spanning more than a decade is not incarcerated for life.  In this case, the suspect’s criminal history clearly showed a mind-set toward violent crime and violence against law enforcement.  Yet, somehow, this suspect was out on the street doing the exact same thing his criminal history demonstrated; only this time a person died as a result.

This case is not unlike all the other similar stories we hear.  Another violent criminal in and out of the court system and prison for the same type of crimes spanning years.  This demonstrates a flaw in the legal system, not only in California, but across the country.  An all too liberal justice system that fails to take in account or notice the warning signs of a career criminal.

Our justice system in the United States is the best in the world.  It upholds the presumption of innocence until the facts prove otherwise, simply put.  This allows a person, suspected of a crime, the opportunity to prove their innocence regardless of past criminal history.  This is important, it protects us from being prosecuted in a witch hunt fashion just because of a criminal past.

Easier said than done

The flaw seems to come in the form of an inability for the legal system to identify a career criminal.  States like California have enacted multiple strike type laws in an attempt to address career criminals.  Obviously, these laws do not do enough to be effective and suffer from a type of Murphy’s Law syndrome.  Often, for various reasons, the individuals targeted by such laws seem to slip through the cracks.  A reason for this is the need for multiple convictions before longer prison sentences are imposed.  The problem here is obvious, the person must be caught first, prosecuted and convicted.  Until then, they may be free to commit the crime over and over until stopped.

The solution is not an easy one.  Identifying if a person is a career criminal may make it possible to act sooner than later.  The problem is doing so without denying a person the due process of law.  However, waiting for multiple convictions to occur is not a good solution either.  Courts need the ability to impose longer prison sentences and remove opportunities to shorten a prison term.  Prison sentencing terms should include career criminal provisions that could be applied in real time, rather than waiting over time for additional convictions.

The idea of going to prison should be intimidating enough, though there will always be a criminal element that ignores this principle.  However, we can make going to prison effective in reducing crime by increasing prison terms substantially.  Though increased prison terms create other problems, especially the financial cost, it is a cost worth bearing if it can save lives or prevent atrocities that stain our communities and restricts our society.