Can we have some restorative justice?
Justice is, diagnosis generally, look defined as the use of power appointed by and as a function of law. It is a system of honor or standards to support fair treatment and due reward. Justice is supposed to be inextricably bound to characteristics such as fairness, buy impartiality, reasonableness, and evenhandedness. It can be argued that our nation’s system of justice has been in a state of evolutionary “process” since its inception. However, justice as systematically imposed has more to do with those who hold the power to define and enforce it, than with the characteristics and nature by which it is defined.
Over-representation of minorities and marginalized populations in the criminal justice system is a problem around the world. It raises questions about the fairness of the justice system itself, and of how larger social justice problems influence the justice system. The disproportionate incarceration rates and arbitrary sentencing, and/or over sentencing among black and brown populations seriously confront the lack of fairness, impartiality and evenhandedness within the criminal justice system. “Equal Justice Under the Law…” has become empty rhetoric and a dream deferred to so many Americans it can no longer be ignored. The concept of equality within the legal system in the service of justice for all is, for far too many citizens, just a utopian concept in a United States that holds the highest incarceration rate in the world. The system is broken and it needs to be dismantled and reconfigured to include the platitudes and principles upon which this nation was founded, inclusive of ALL of its citizens.
Crime and anti-social behaviors are disruptive to our communities. There are victims and victimizers. Those distinctions can be universally applied regardless of race, class, gender, belief system, ethnicity or national origin. And yet, those who fill our jails, prisons and detention centers, even as young as 8 years old, are predominately black and brown and still, we want to proclaim we have a judicial system that is representative of the people? Economic disparity is undeniably a contributing factor, but what must be acknowledged is that the power brokers are indisputably members of the dominant class. That MUST change.
Restorative justice emphasizes repairing the harm caused by crime. When victims, offenders and community members meet to decide how to do that, the results can be transformational. When speaking of community members, we must include law enforcement as a part of our community and NOT an outside force of STATE Control. The distinction of enforcement is one, which relegates us to a state of fascism in contrast to officers of justice who practice as servant leaders sworn to protect and serve its citizenry. As citizens, we have become an “occupied” community, and those sworn to protect and serve have become our oppressors as a part of a broken system of crime, justice, and punishment that is embedded in institutional racism and systemic bias. As taxpayers and citizens, we then become tools of our own oppression and perpetuate the dysfunction we find within our own communities.
What we have been doing for decades by increasing the rates of incarceration and criminalization of poor and disenfranchised populations has been a complete failure. We have the distinction of incentivizing crime as BIG business. We have created an industrial complex dedicated to the commodification of people in the prison pipeline. We are ransoming our future by locking up and locking down our young people. Without an absolute reconsideration of crime and punishment in the U.S., we are putting our future in peril. Can we have some restorative justice please? Otherwise, “Equal Justice Under the Law….” are merely words that tell a bold faced LIE.
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