The concept of justice and fairness is deeply woven into the fabric of the American identity. The problem is, it doesn’t really exist.
By David Todd McCarty | Monday, September 23, 2019
We all like to think that everyone in America is guilty until proven innocent, that people convicted of a crime most likely did it, and that if you aren’t doing anything wrong there is no reason to fear the police. In reality, none of that withstands any serious scrutiny.
What we actually believe is that most people accused of a crime are most likely guilty, prisons are full of wrongfully convicted innocents, and the police stop people of color with little regard to guilt or innocence and hand out tickets to fund local government.
Children of color, routinely get harsher punishments in the criminal justice system and are six times more likely than a white kid to have an incident in school become a criminal charge instead of a school disciplinary action like a detention.
Anyone who has the misfortune to run afoul of the child welfare system will find themselves in a precarious situation that may perpetuate the very problem the system claims to solve.
Many of the people who work within our institutions begin to see everyone as guilty of something, and so once you come into contact with them, the system chews you up and spits you out. Often the system is designed to feed on itself, creating victims to feed the beast. Police write tickets that become unpayable fines which become warrants that become jail sentences that pay for-profit prisons to hold them for money.
The more you experience the dark side of social services, the more you come to realize that it’s a cycle of despair with no winners and plenty of losers. Politicians use fear to push policies that sound tough on crime, but do little to actually reduce it. Instead they feed a machine designed to fund local government and enrich contractors who donate to political campaigns.
Sure, there are plenty of dedicated professionals that really try to help people, but ask any of them if they have the resources to actually help anyone, or are they just moving people through the system. People fall through the cracks all the time and if you don’t have the money or power to fight back, you lose. Your home. Your family. Your life.
The poor are not terribly sympathetic. If you’re living on the fringes, there were a whole cascade of events that brought you to that place. Some of it may have been self-inflicted. Most was just bad luck. None of it was fair.
They say that for the average person to bring themselves out of poverty that it takes nearly 20 years and almost everything has to go your way. One bit of bad luck and back you go.
We recently became aware of an elderly couple who came to Cape May County from Puerto Rico. She is in a wheelchair with a degenerative back issue that needs medical care and speaks no English. He speaks a little English. He lost his small business in Hurricane Maria. They lost their house and what little possessions they had.
They came to the mainland hoping for a better life and medical care for her. They went to Social Security to see about benefits. He qualified for $235 and she for $100. A month. That’s what they’re meant to live on. That wouldn’t cover food let alone housing or anything else.
We have a terrible system and with almost no safety net. But worse, we are, as a culture, indifferent to the plight of the poor and mentally challenged. We are perpetuating a system that doesn’t value human life because that gives us someone to look down on. We need better solutions, but we also need to stop believing that we’re living in a fair system where people who work hard get ahead.