Are we a country of criminal justice and rehabilitation? Or of racism and off-radar slavery? What should citizens do when they fear those that are charged with keeping them safe? This is a question many Americans have been asking themselves in recent years and a question citizens of color have been asking for two centuries. It is a truth they have known for ages, yet one that has just made it to the forefront of the social conversation due to the rise in cellphone camera technology and the internet.
These tools have begun to truly expose the foul, criminal, and racist behavior exercised by United States law enforcement officers. Beatings. Shootings. Killings. The police have been able to murder citizens of color with impunity since the abolition of slavery. On Friday, a North Carolina trooper, Jonathan K. Whitely, made a post to Instagram that stated those beaten by police should not seek justice because they already got what they deserved. This is sickening. Yet, these injustices do not stand alone.
The United States prison system, itself, is a relic of slavery and operates under the weak guise of rehabilitation. The simple truth is that the penitentiary system in this country does not rehabilitate. It breeds repeat offenders. Repeat offenders that can be picked up again and held to perform cheap, nearly free, labor for the state. These crimes against citizens cannot, nor should not, stand.
We Need Prison, Law Enforcement, and Criminal Justice Reform
For too long, law enforcement in this country has not been held accountable for the crimes they commit. The reasons usually state that they were simply doing their job and reacted in the moment. A paper-thin defense, if there ever was one, yet repeatedly they are exonerated of their charges and given a minor slap on the wrist.
Their badge a shield of privilege and their impunity the proof, these actions by officers of the law and prison administrators is racism in action. It is the hidden truth that has now been coming to light. Yet all is not lost. What this country needs is reformation from within; coming from the words of good cops calling out those who overstep and forsake their oath to protect and serve.
Citizens should take up their phones and record these injustices when they see them. We need more activists on the streets calling for change. We all need to step in and stop these acts when we see them. White citizens, especially, should feel compelled to act when faced with these horrors. Exercise our privilege to defend others who are without it.
Lawmakers need to reform the prison system. We must leave the age of slavery behind and learn from our mistakes. We must create a system that is truly one of rehabilitation. Should we make this a reality hundreds, if not thousands, of innocent lives will be spared from the overreaching arm of the law. The time has come to act. We must reform the criminal justice system.
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