Can Our Justice System Be Fixed?

Posted By Bill Nimmo || 10-Jun-2015

Having worked in the criminal court system in San Diego daily for the last 30 some years I have made some observations that I would like to share. As we watch this presidential election I can’t recall when there was more vocal dissatisfaction with the system as we see today. The economy is in shambles and this recovery is about as slow as a recovery gets. Yet when I am in the court system the accused are being treated with the same harsh penalties and it shows a lack of understanding that this costs a lot of money to insist on this level of punishment. It also demonstrates that we have little empathy for the fact that people are not doing well economically and they are stealing more, acting out more, and getting into more trouble.

You can take the position of no sympathy or no empathy but we have gotten ourselves to a point where the system is close to breakdown. The judges can’t talk about this candidly. They are some of the smartest folks in the system but they are not allowed to give their opinions about the laws being made and how the system is so harsh. They simply must enforce the laws and maintain their opinions to themselves.

Over the years, prosecutors, legislators, prison workers’ unions, and other political interest groups have added to the laws such that they are very complicated to understand and leave little room for valid negotiation. It has certainly resulted in more punishment, but has it really been in the best interests of the public in general? Every time some crime happens to a child, we get a new “Amber’s law,” “Marcy’s law,” or some other child’s name law that gives less discretion to the prosecutors, and more power to the crime victims. We really don’t need these. Crime victims don’t need more protection from the Courts. You cannot prevent these crimes from happening and guess what? If you harm a child an aggressive prosecutor and a responsible judge will nail that person to the wall. You can count on that. These prosecutors live for getting the “bad” guys. You don’t need some new law tying the hands of everyone to make justice happen.

We have gotten ourselves over-lawed, underfunded, overcrowded, too expensive, and too complicated for justice to really prevail the way it used to be able to prevail. So many fines are imposed that those who can’t pay in the first place just get into more trouble because they have no jobs and can’t pay their fines.

We need to scrap this whole damn system and start afresh. This is of course impossible but if you eliminated these “voter propositions” and had “blue ribbon committees" making the laws, then every ambitious politician couldn’t grab the latest crime and make a new law that adds little and costs society a tremendous amount of money.

When the Rebuplicans talk about “less government,” we cheer, but frankly I do not think it is really possible to reduce government. It is a money train that is out of control and may never get back in balance. But it doesn’t seem to matter, Democrat or Republican, no one seems interested in making the justice system balanced in favor of protecting the rights of the innocent or having any sympathy for those that get themselves in trouble.

At any rate, that is my opinion.