J is for Justice (or the lack of same)

We in the United States like to think of ourselves as a good and JUST people. Like all humans, though, sometimes we fall short. Some examples of the latter, primarily from our JUSTICE system, in recent weeks:

Item: “A recent Department of Justice lawsuit that called the criminalization of school disciplinary offenses as minor as dress code violations so arbitrary and severe as to ‘shock the conscience’ publicized some of the most egregious punishment at Meridian, Mississippi’s schools. But perpetuation of what is known as the school-to-prison pipeline is not limited to that one city or county, and it’s nothing new, according to a new report by several civil rights organizations. Stories highlighted by the report reveal that school punishment in other Mississippi counties is as bad, if not worse, and exemplify the severity and scope of the problem.

Item: “Why would anyone confess to a crime they did not commit? It happens so often in Chicago, defense attorneys call the city the false confession capital of the United States. Chicago has twice as many documented false confession cases as any city in the country. One reason may be the way police go about questioning suspects. And 60 Minutes has learned the Chicago Police Department is now the subject of a Justice Department investigation into its interrogation practices.”

Item: From this call to repeal the death penalty in the state of Maryland: “Race and class decide which defendants are sentenced to death. Maryland prosecutors pursue death sentences ‘significantly and substantially’ more often for Black defendants accused of killing white victims than for any other offenders. Despite the fact that 76.4% of the state’s homicide victims are Black, every person Maryland has executed since 1978 — and everyone currently on Maryland’s death row — was prosecuted for the death of a white victim.” There is no reason to believe that Maryland is particularly dissimilar from other states in this regard. Glad to see that the death penalty will be abolished in the state.

But the “justice gone wrong” story that I found most surprising is from a few years back. The less I explain, the more effective it will be. Please watch this 60 Minutes Special: Picking Cotton, about Jennifer Thompson and Ronald Cotton’s best-selling story of truth, injustice, and redemption. Here is author John Grisham explaining why he supports innocence projects.

I’m reminded by a still-relevant verse in a song by Tom Paxton from the early 1960s, What Did You Learn In School Today, made popular by Pete Seeger; LISTEN HERE or HERE. The lyrics, appropriate to this post:

What did you learn in school today,
Dear little boy of mine?
What did you learn in school today,
Dear little boy of mine?
I learned that policemen are my friends.
I learned that justice never ends.
I learned that murderers die for their crimes.
Even if we make a mistake sometimes.
That’s what I learned in school today.
That’s what I learned in school.

ABC Wednesday – Round 12

25 thoughts on “J is for Justice (or the lack of same)”

  1. Great post. I have a Pete Seeger album where he sang that song and I also have a tape of the Tom Paxton singing it. It is outrageous how partial and unfair the “justice” system can be. I remember when the trend was to do away with the death penalty only to see it swing back in favor. If only one innocent person were murdered by the state under the auspices of the death penalty it would make it unconscionable but new DNA evidence has shown that it is a big problem. Then, as you said, there is the issue of the death penalty being used predominantly when the victim is white. Also, there is the money issue where wealthy people generally have a better defense team.


  2. Chicago is the Poison City. If you live close to the Rogers Park-Evanston boundary you can sit on a Chicago Avenue stoop and watch the cops pull people over for DWB.

    It is dangerously corrupt. If you might testify against the corruption, you have a surprisingly good chance of catching a case of suicide (e.g. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/18/us/18chicago.html?_r=0 )

    On that Mississippi article: “[n]ext time it might be bodies…” Really? Kids are going to throw human bodies at each other on the bus because they threw peanuts?

    Sick society.


  3. Wow, just watched the video, did not see it live. What touches me is the forgiveness that was shown by Mr. Cotton. Thank God for DNA.


  4. Upon hearing the news of some “justice” in the USA, I just shake my head in wonder and amazement! Sad…

    abcw team


  5. Great post. I read somewhere that the American justice system is not worried about justice, they are worried about due process. Which is not the same thing necessarily. I can tell you how many times I’ve read about our fellow citizens being victimized by our justice system and somebody says they were just following their procedure.


  6. That case is chilling and I’m so glad DNA technology can be used to free those who should never have been imprisoned. Justice is a complex thing and we’ve still a long way to go.


  7. I don’t think it is good to be too lax. I am only sharing this to u, becos I might get the sack. U probably know new zealand pride themselves in be adventurous and dare devils. We have tall trees and kids climb high up and some jump from high. The care taker spray dots on some no climbing trees. But the rest, freedom. Today, freedom meant a child falling from a great height.


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