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Needing a more human and compassionate criminal justice system

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At least for those with jailable criminal cases against them, a large percentage of them enter the courthouse in fear. Those running and operating the courts try to maintain a sense of normalcy — at least superficially — amidst all this fear, but it remains.

Some judges sometimes or usually protect the Constitution, including its bill of rights. However, too many of them treat the Constitution as a nuisance, but of course will deny such views if asked.

Control is an overriding theme at courthouses, starting with the requirement to pass through metal detectors, often to leave cellphones out of the courthouse, and to sit in the courtroom waiting often endlessly for one’s case to be called, always with armed security ready to enforce the control, to handcuff those the judge tells them to cuff and haul away, and sometimes to inform the judge when they smell any alcohol on a courtroom visitor. I have seen courthouse deputies have my client’s friend blow into a handheld alcohol sensor (always woefully inaccurate) and cart him away to jail to wait the hours for him to blow into the inaccurate machine with no alcohol reading.  

Too many people working in the criminal justice system — including a huge number of legislators, executives (the president, governors, and county and municipal executives), judges, courthouse personnel, police, prosecutors, criminal defense lawyers, jailers — lose sight of what it is like to walk into a courthouse for the first time in fear, accused of a jailable offense.

When the people who work in the criminal justice system put themselves in the shoes of such people, we will have a much more human and just criminal justice system. Right  now, the criminal justice system does not have enough of a human face, in large part because too many who are part of the system lose sight of — or run from — the realities of the havoc that criminal charges and convictions (including convictions of too many innocent people and of too many people for acts that should not be criminalized(including marijuana use)) and sentences and jailing have on so many criminal defendants.

We need a more human and compassionate criminal justice system, and not the current system that is so overgrown that it too often gives insufficient time and attention to make the right decisions in too many defendants’ cases.