What Would it Take to Reform Our Criminal Justice System?

Criminal justice reform, a reform aimed at fixing errors in the criminal justice system, should be considered. Like every government system, the criminal justice system has many errors that could, and arguably should, be fixed. Specifically, the way in which we prosecute and punish non-violent drug offenders. Republican Rand Paul and Democrat Corey Booker constructed a bi-partisan legislation that aimed at keeping non-violent criminals, e.g. drug offenders, out of prison. In addition, it aimed to avoid pinning permanent criminal records on these offenders. Is it fair for a person caught using drugs to be imprisoned and left with a criminal record, similar to a murderer?

There are many “pros” to this new legislation and criminal justice reform. First, they allow individuals who, for example, got caught using marijuana, to not be labeled as a criminal with jail time and permanent records. It allows for a fairer system, with murderers and drug users not being treated similarly. Second, this new legislation is beneficial for offenders in the long run. Not only will it allow people to understand their mistakes, but it will prevent them from having issues such as not being able to get a job or rent a house. Without a permanent criminal record, people will have more opportunities, instead of dealing with a small mistake for the rest of their lives. Next, it allows for our nation to not live on the edge at all times. Someone who uses drugs for anxiety might be filled with more anxiety when constantly being worried about being caught and all of the awful repercussions. This increased anxiety could potentially lead to more drug use, which is not what the criminal justice system wants. With criminal justice reform, these issues could potentially be avoided.

Although there are many pros to criminal justice reform and this new legislation, it is important to consider the many cons. What is meant to be a way for offenses to be treated fairly could turn into people thinking they can do things, like get caught smoking marijuana, and not necessarily be reprimanded. Yes, they would be punished; however, people would be more likely to do things like this if they knew that they would not spend time in prison or have a criminal record. It could lead to an unhealthy cycle of people using drugs and thinking it is okay. Another downfall to criminal justice reform is a lack of support from families and friends of criminal offenders, as well as the criminal offenders themselves. There is an attitude from this group of people that is negative and based off the system being unfair. They feel that they, or someone they love, has committed a crime and is paying the price, so others should too. It allows us to address the question: is criminal justice reform really fair? There are two very opinionated sides to this debate, with strong arguments on both ends.

Creating a new program can be costly. However, with the support of citizens and government officials, it can be easier to implement. With proper advertisement and discussion of the legislation, people would be able to get a better understanding of the benefits and would be more likely to support it. However, not all people will be supportive. This can lead to increasing cost and it being harder to pass the new legislation. No matter what, there can be a high price for any type of criminal justice reform. It can be expensive due to programs such as treatment programs for drug offenders. However, many individuals look at criminal justice reform as a money-saver. This is due to less individuals being incarcerated and taking up room in prisons due to smaller offenses. Whichever way you decide to view criminal justice reform, there are going to be pros and cons. Fixing errors in the criminal justice system does come at a price, although many believe it to be worth it.  


This article was written by Ciara Petronzio, a future intern at the Reid Law Firm.