McGuire Megna Attorneys, An Association of Professionals

When Criminal Justice Marries Politics

When Criminal Justice Marries Politics

Like a first date, it all seems good.  You’re attracted to each other, what could possibly go wrong?  So, you say to yourself, I’m going for it!  You sleep together.  Months down the road, there’s a baby on the way and all of a sudden the perfect relationship you thought you’d found on that first date isn’t so perfect anymore.

That’s kind of the scenario when politics mixes with the criminal justice system.  For instance, it’s fine to say “Get tough on crime”.  Who can be against that?  But when a politician introduces a bill advocating mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses or introducing sexual predator lists, the relationship becomes a bit more complicated.  It’s complicated because human beings are complicated, they’re complex.  When we label someone a “sexual predator” we’ve doomed them for life.  Is that something that we can do by referring to a chart rather than looking at the situation on a case by case basis?   Also, do all drug cases deserve to be handled by mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines that make the judge no more than a spectator?

I’m not advocating a “soft on crime” policy but has our “tough on crime” really worked?  Has it really served the interests of justice?

Even our methods of employment screening have taken similar methods and to what benefit?  We screen and reject people for jobs who are eminently qualified but made a mistake decades ago and now they are not fit for the job?  Really?  Is this how we want to live?  Don’t we want criminal cases judged on their own merits instead of some artificial grid?  Don’t we want to judge candidates for employment reviewed on their particular background and skill set?  What’s happened here?

When we start judging people by guidelines and pre-determined charts, we’ve abdicated our freedom as a people.  We need to think long and hard about this.  Is this the kind of society we want to leave to our children?

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