Craig DeRoche, a former member of the Michigan Legislature, is the director of external affairs at Justice Fellowship, the advocacy arm of Prison Fellowship, a Christian ministry.
The criminal justice system in America was created to keep communities safe, to respect and restore victims, and to return offenders who leave prison to be self-sufficient and law-abiding. What the system has become is a monumental failure that our states and nation can no longer afford.
Beyond the dollars spent, our failing criminal justice system contributes to our cultural decline, the breakdown of the traditional family and dependency on public assistance programs. The statistics documenting the failure of our system are unrivaled in human history. The United States today imprisons 1 in 100 residents and has 1 in 31 citizens on parole or probation.
Our minority population is a reliably easier target for getting the numbers by which society measures law enforcement today.
The growth in criminalization has led to no measurable decrease in recidivism despite increasing our prison population tenfold. Government employment in criminal justice has grown by 1 million employees since 1980, as is noted by Michelle Alexander in “The New Jim Crow.” Amazingly, the call to continue to grow the government and perpetuate this failure is usually led by conservatives and supported by African-American leaders, from the president to our local mayors.
The fact that minorities are unfairly targeted goes beyond decriminalizing marijuana or a handful of petty crimes. Prosecutors and police budgets are rewarded for convictions, and they are not held to account for their contribution to spending in prisons or for increases in welfare and Medicaid dependence. Our minority population is a reliably easier target for getting the numbers by which society measures law enforcement today.
Statistically, trolling for low-level law breakers has distracted the public from demanding justice where it is most needed. For example, Chicago solved only 30 percent of the murders committed in 2011 (down from 80 percent in 1991). Comparing this to a Brookings employment study for 2011, getting away with murder was easier than finding a job for the unemployed in Chicago.
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