Often in our justice system we see cases that challenge the American ideology of a just, fair and equitable justice system. What do we call these different forms or “shades” of justice? Every case is different right? Every juror, judge, police officer, attorney, witness and other court ordered participates should come to court equipped with integrity, honesty and a commitment to be truthful so that justice is accomplished fair and square. Do we call that “true justice” or a “shade of justice”? One thing we can all agree on is that everyone does not come to court equip with the right integrity package. Many do not care for a fair trial but may be more interested in avoiding the penalty of an offence or may indulge upon an opportunity for financial gain if the court’s judge and/or jurors agree with the attorney. This could easily be identified as a form of "shady justice".
Before I get started let me go on record by saying, I know all judges, district attorneys, prosecutors, police officers, witnesses, jurors and court appointed personnel are NOT ALL CROOKED. Often because of the actions of a few many are viewed as “dirty”. For those of you who carry integrity and honesty into the court room, Thank you. We appreciate your service to make our court rooms a place of “true justice”. I want to encourage you to continue the good work of justice. It is such a needed part of our communities across the country.
As I look at the justice system, I am often challenged with how to identify a “true shade” of justice in the United States of America. For example, in my mind “true justice” is innocent until proven guilty. I also believe “true justice” includes a group of jurors who are fair, logical and intelligent
enough to agree on a verdict of guilty or innocent based on evidence and facts that are beyond a reasonable doubt. I believe these citizens/jurors would not come to a verdict/conclusion of innocent or guilty based on skin color or economic level of the defendant. I also believe that the judge of the court and the attorneys involved in the court process should be fair and filled with integrity so that every defendant receives a fair trial. That sounds good right, however, you and I both know that is often NOT what happens in many of the courtrooms across the country.
Even with that said, many have not experienced “true justice”, because the attorneys and/or police have falsified documents, covered up evidence and/or lied to protect themselves or were offered special benefits if the truth was hidden such as money, property, positions, etc.
There have been several celebrity cases where money appears to be the judge and jury. These celebrities are able to hire the best of lawyers, befriend and influence judges through various connections and pull strings that at the end of their day in court the "guilty" are now given a "innocent verdict. On the other hand many are accused of crimes they have NOT committed and are sentenced for a crime which they did not commit because of lack of money, influence and advocacy.
Let’s take a look at one of the practices in the justice system called BAIL.
How does the bail system work? First of all, when a person is arrested or charged with a crime, they must pay the bondmen for bail. This money originally was to guarantee that the accused or defendant would return for his/her court date. However, if the defendant is considered a flight risk of not coming to court, the defendant is retained in jail until a court date is set. Usually it may take three or four weeks for the case to reach the courts.
One of the first things to consider is that the accused may need to return to work, or pick up children from the child care, cook dinner or take care of an elderly parent, in either case this individual is usually allowed one phone call and his/her life is put on hold if they go to a detention cell or jail because they are unable to raise the bond money required..
Secondly, if he/she has no attorney or court appointed attorney, there is no need to go to court. The courts require that all defendants have an attorney present when going to court. If the accused can not afford an attorney, then the case can go on hold for months or even years. Therefore, the accused is stuck in jail and has never even been to a trial. There will be no court, no jury no judge to hear his case. If they have no advocate or family member to fight for them, the injustice continues endlessly.
Thirdly, those defendants who have money to pay the bail, or have family members who can pay the bail, are not retained in the detention center or jail. It is easy for one to conclude that justice is based on money and not on the principles of innocent until proven guilty.
Fourthly, many of the repeat offenders may be those with mental disabilities, alcohol or drug addictions and/or physical disabilities. Instead of filling our jails with these individuals, spending millions of tax payers dollars for the housing and supervision expenses of these defendants, it makes more sense to have a diversion program in place that can house these individuals and offer the same medical services they would receive if they were in the jail. The diversion program would eliminate bail, court cost, attorney fees and etc.
During my lifetime I have seen many who have had to stay in jail until the proposed bail money is received by the bondmen. Lives have been disrupted, savings by family members or friends have been compromised, children suddenly have no parent at home to care for them. Their lives are changed and so are the lives of other family members who try to fill the gaps. There has been no verdict, no court room attendance, no attorney and no opportunity to make things right.
According to an article in the Reason Magazine, written by Scott Shackford, 12, 19, 2018,
There is about 412,000 people have been offered bail but have not paid it typically because they could not afford it. This multitude of detainees cost the American taxpayers about $15 Billion a year.
It was also stated that those unable to pay bail are:
· 14% more likely to be convicted of a crime.
· By them sitting in the jail, they are more willing to accept whatever deal is offered.
· So that means they have harsher sentences and less likely to get the charges reduced.
The criminal justice system depends on deal making or plea agreements to keep the system operating smoothly.
There is a nation-wide debate about our justice system, even by court officials about the discrimination that is occurring with African American males who can not afford the bond. Many African Americans are immediately put in jail because they do not have the funds and have no hope of getting the bond money from family and/or friends.
That means if your son or daughter is picked up by a police officer and has not committed a crime, but just looks suspicious, he/she can be accused of a crime such as resisting arrest. That individual can be offered to pay a bond amount, that they can not afford which means that they immediately go to jail.
Below I have included research information from Pretrial Justice Institute of the current Justice system of the USA in 2017.
The cost of Money Bond System:
1. Taxpayers pay $38 million per day for those awaiting trial.
2. 63% of total jail population or 450,000 are awaiting trial.
3. It is estimated that two-thirds of people in jail suffer from health, mental health or substance abuse disorders. It is 60% more expensive to jail those individuals.
Cost Savings of Change in the Bond Money systems Across the Country:
The following information was done by a study done by : Pretrial Justice Institute Research of Current System 2017
1. 88% of all arrested are released.
2. Only 3% are given extra supervision condition
3. Kentucky saved $25 million in jail cost by increasing pre-trial release rate by 5%.
By expanding the pretrial diversion project expenses dropped in jail usage which lead to a savings of $3 million.
Broward County Florida
*The county estimated saving more than $125 million annually by diverting 30% of arrested people in jail to using programs already in place.
*The study found that a pretrial detention cost is 15 times the cost of day reporting and nearly 75 times the cost pre-trial supervision.
There are many other parts of the country that have been studied and proved that bail bonds cost our communities millions of dollars a year. Why do we not demand a change in our justice system around these issues.
Look for my future blog on Shades of Justice which will include some possible innovate justice reform opportunities around the subject of bail.