OPINION

The three C’s of the United States’ criminal justice system are Cops, Courts, and Corrections

Adrian Halverstadt
Pratt Tribune
Adrian Halverstadt

The three C’s of the United States’ criminal justice system are Cops, Courts, and Corrections. Most citizens would concur that each one needs some reform to achieve better outcomes. The problem is not due to a lack of hard work. The police are making more arrests, working longer shifts, and being better trained than ever before in law enforcement history. Our courts are litigating more cases, and our prisons are full, housing inmates at a rate five times greater than most other industrialized nations in the world. However, the three C’s of justice we pay dearly for is getting worse results every day, yet we keep throwing more and more money into it; reform is needed. This action is the essence of insanity, doing the same thing repeatedly in the hope of getting a different result. So, what can be done about it?

First, we must realize that we are all a part of the problem. We all must make fundamental changes in how we view and participate in the justice process. This may include an altering in our personal attitudes and lifestyle. We know from observing the cancelation culture in action, it is easy for some to blame the Cops and appeal for their corporate undoing; how irresponsible is this reasoning, Eh? Just think of where our society would be today without the “thin blue line” separating the just from the unjust in our civil society. The same dynamic holds true for the preserving power of our military. No doubt Afghans would agree when we have American boots on the ground; freedom reigns, and aggressors are kept in check. Kudos go out to the men and women swearing their allegiance in protecting and preserving the Constitution of our great nation, both at home and abroad.

Others wish to blame our ineffective justice system on the Courts for over-populating our prisons. Today, the majority of our incarcerated are nonviolent offenders. No doubt our court

system could be more prudent in utilizing alternative means for the nonviolent, but they cannot do it alone. For decades our justice system has been “retributive” in focus, meaning a “do the crime, do time” philosophy. Our penal disciplinary approach is hands-off for most citizens, an “out of sight out of mind” mentality. However, if we seek an alternative for nonviolent offenders, restorative justice measures will be needed in every community. That means no more hands-off for the majority of our citizens. Using restorative measures means bringing nonviolent offenders back into the communities where the offense occurred. Reparation is made, life skills are taught, employment proficiencies are gained, injuries are healed, relationships are rebuilt, and offenders are given a second chance with a community support system in place. For this to occur, each of us will need to take the issue of crime and punishment personally and put more skin in the game. We will need to take the high road for many of us by regaining compassion and respect for the nonviolent offenders in our communities. We will need to work more intentionally with those who break the law in ways that show them they have value, that we believe in them, and that we need them for our society to be whole.

The same is true for the public health problem we face. Today, most police calls involve mental illness situations; most officers are not schooled on dealing with the mentally ill. Mental illness is a societal problem. One that law enforcement personnel cannot fix. It is a local community problem. That means we will need to invest more money and energy into bumping up our mental health services, including individual training and a commitment to volunteering for the greater good of all.

Also, today more than 60 percent of inmates are there for drug offenses; the practice of doing time is not solving our nation’s drug problem. We need to make drugs a public health problem instead of a criminal justice issue. How will this paradigm shift occur?

The change begins within each one of us. We must change our thinking on the matter. Discuss it with our families and in our communities. At the same time, we must opine for change for the drug laws with our elected officials, locally, state-wide, and nationally. Corrections cannot fix this problem alone. For the nonviolent population in our penal institutions to decrease, we must increase our activism to change criminal law locally, state-wide, and federally. We must relegate prison to violent offenders and to the status of the last resort after all other actions have failed for the nonviolent.

Fixing our criminal justice system is doable if we are willing to take personal responsibility for the problem. The sacrifice of a patriot often involves more than bearing arms and a willingness to die for one’s country. In the case of reforming our justice system, patriotism is shown by our desire to live more intentionally for the sake of the community. By laying to rest our old prejudices and former ways of thinking regarding lawbreakers, particularly the nonviolent ones. By adopting a willingness to serve nonviolent offenders by welcoming them back into our communities for transformation with compassion and reconciliation. Such patriotism is not being soft on crime; instead, it takes personal responsibility to fix the problem and put in the work necessary for positive change. We can do it. For “with God, all things are possible!” – Jesus Christ (Matthew 19:26, the Holy Bible).

* Adrian Halverstadt is a Professor of Criminal Justice at Barclay College, Haviland, Kansas. www.barclaycollege.edu