Just Mercy: Reforming or Overthrowing the Criminal Injustice System?

by Karyn Pomerantz, 3-15-2020

There is broad interest in the United States over policing and imprisonment as a racist attack directed primarily against black and Latin workers. The US leads the world in imprisonment with over two million people in prison and more under the control of the criminal “justice” system. Detention centers for immigrants add to the toll with approximately 50,000 people held in custody every day (AP, 2019) and thousands of children isolated in camps apart from their parents, a strategy to deter and terrorize immigrants fleeing even more terrifying situations in their home countries. 

Reformers call for adjusting sentencing and parole for crimes, reducing overcrowding, supporting rehabilitation and reentry, releasing older and sicker prisoners, decreasing the number of black and brown men being arrested and incarcerated, ending solitary confinement, and improving prison health and access to educational programs. Juvenile justice proponents argue for the presence of lawyers during questioning and alternatives to prison. 

This article argues that reforms do not achieve sustainable improvements because incarceration and legal processes (bail, plea deals, inadequate legal aid) serve to control rebellion and dissent. Replacing capitalism with an egalitarian social system can alter the environment that causes crime and transform offenders through restorative justice and other alternatives to policing and prison. 

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