Failed Criminal Justice

The criminal justice system in the United States is crucial in ensuring that everyone has fair and equal access to justice and that no group is abusing the system or the country. Equal Justice under the Law is one of the phrases used in the legal system most frequently, but it is also one of the most misused legal concepts. The phrase is frequently used in connection with courthouses, ceremonies, and even constitutional hearings, but it cannot be used to describe the American judicial system as it currently exists. In various media, people are continuously fighting for their unpracticed and denied rights

such as ‘Black Lives Matter’ as well as women marching for their right not exercised by the constitution. It is evident with all these chaos of an uncontrolled society that the criminal justice of the country is not living up to its standards. Still today, many Americans do not have access to the hand of justice besides being denied equal access. It only means that the United States is a country willing to listen to particular people while others are denied the same opportunities. Estimates show that about eighty percent of the people in poor and middle class have their needs unmet. Most of the legal aids from the government and criminal defense are kept at a position that they only help the wealthy in the community but becomes an impossibility for most of the low-income individuals. The American justice system has thus become a system whereby money matters more than merit, and equal justice is a subverted practice that does not recognize particular groups of people. The purpose of this paper is to assess how the criminal justice system of the United States fails at delivering its promises to the citizens and the existing gap between practice and principles of criminal justice.

Literature Review

Understanding Democracy

In most cases, we encounter the idea that the United States is a democratic country but still at the same time, there is news all over media showing injustice in different regions of the country, and this raises questions concerning the term democracy concerning its implications. The central part of understanding democracy entails an evaluation of democracy and its progress within a country. America is known as the land of opportunity, and for this reason, people from different cultures fly across the globe to find the stated opportunity, which they are denied in their home countries. As a result, the country is a home to hundreds of different cultures seeking to live peacefully with each other, and the government promises to ensure this happen. Sooner or later, some of these people begin experiencing hardship as they no longer encounter the promise and at certain points are threatened by the fact the criminal justice system does not pay attention to their pleas.

The arguments on what democracy means focus on the source and purpose of the concept as well as the procedure employed in utilizing the concept. Democracy simply explained is the system of the government where the power is in the hands of the citizens, and they only exercise it through their chosen representatives. Democracy from this point means that it is the citizens who are granted the authority to decide the direction of the country, but it lacks a critical point, which is equality and freedom among all the citizens. This is a classical approach to the concept as it shows the source and purpose of power. Most of the people who perpetrate atrocities in the name of democracy believe in this meaning where they are the will and their common good is the purpose of their system of governance. The modern definition of democracy revolves around the procedure, it is concerned with how the leaders are chosen, and it is these leaders who determine the direction that the citizens go.

From this understanding, it is to draw a perspective of the American criminal justice system, which is the first definition of democracy. Instead of developing a system that ensures everyone has equal access to their legal rights, the system is made up of individuals who corrupt the meaning of democracy and ensures that it only favors mainly the affluent persons in the society. The recent case of ‘Black Lives Matter’ is an example of the fact that criminal justice does not consider the minorities as part of the population that needs its protection. Most of the people often oppressed by the country’s unfair criminal justice system are the minorities such as the Blacks and Hispanics and then poor in the community, and to them, the term democracy refers only to opportunity granted to the rich and the Whites.

The Failing System

The American criminal justice system was put in place to keep the society safe. Additionally, its aim was to respect and create a community where victims feel safe and ensure that offenders released from prisons are corrected to become law-abiding citizens. Today, the same cannot be said of the system, but instead, it is a failure causing formal and informal casualty to the citizens of America. The failing criminal justice It is because of this weak system that the country experiences a decline in the culture since people no longer believe that they can depend on public justice programs. The law no longer belongs to the government, but it is exercised in the hand of the citizens who only practices what they feel favors them and not the society as a whole.

The best explanations often given concerning the oppression of the minorities by the criminal justice is that the Blacks and Hispanics are the majorities in the committing the crimes such as drug trafficking and robbery. This is a statement that is technical to argue against since there are several factors that drive them to participate in such activities and these risk factors can be traced back to the efficiency of criminal justice within the country. From such works of literature where Blacks and Hispanics are discussed as the principal offenders in activities like possession of drugs, Whites are barely mentioned yet studies show that they are the primary consumers of these narcotics. Such are examples of how the American society is corrupt and is characterized by racial and socioeconomic margins. If this were the case, then it would be easy to point the specific areas that are not affected by criminal activities, but instead, it is clear those criminal activities such as drug trafficking happen in all corners of the country. Still, with this fact, it is the Blacks and the Hispanics who are majorly sent to prison for drug-related crimes while prisons register a low number of Whites in their institutions. This only shows that somewhere in the criminal justice system, there is corruption that favors the Whites and let the minorities take the blame for crimes that they did not commit.

The main problem arises where the criminal justice system that is supposed to be advocating for the rights of the victims turns a blind eye to their plea. As this paper began, it was mentioned that the current criminal justice system tends to favor a particular group of individuals who are considered unique than the other people. The low number of Whites charged and imprisoned for criminal activities in prison are an illustration the minorities do not stand a chance in this form democracy. There are two reasons that back up this idea, and they are the fact that most of the minorities come from backgrounds and then racial segregation is still very active in the United States. The existing criminal justice system cannot be persuaded with empty pockets, and even most of the Whites who are charged and imprisoned for crime are from low-income families living on the same social line as the minorities. Most of those employed within the criminal justice system of the United States are Whites, and this is where the first definition of democracy is experienced. By populating the ruling hand, the minorities have no one to represent them in the court hearings, and since democracy entails the majority wins, then the Whites are favored in such circumstances.

Popular participation leads to competition, and this silences the meaning of freedom in the criminal justice but promotes the idea of pluralist politics. The term equal justice does not serve any purpose if civil freedoms are neglected in the practice as people no longer get to exercise their freedom in preferences of how the society should exist. The fact that legal practice in the country is failing shows that rhetoric is outrunning reality and it is a disturbing issue since fundamental rights are at stake. It is the role of the judicial system to commit to equal justice as it is the cradle to a legitimate democratic practice, and it is a shame that America is the country leading with the highest number of lawyers only to be having a corrupt criminal justice system. Previously, it was minorities who were politically vulnerable, but this cannot be the central discussion as they are legally vulnerable as well.

The major factor that perpetuates this issue is that the public does not recognize there is a serious problem taking place within the country and approach this issue as something that has been present in the country for ages when the reality is that it is only getting worse. Even though many Americans agree that it is the wealthy that control this country, approximately a fifth of this population is comfortable with the idea and this encourages the practice within the criminal justice system. Only approximately twenty-five percent of Americans agree with the idea that low-income individuals have problems of accessing legal assistance, a perspective that is beyond control and out of reality right now. Within the legal aid practice, only about one lawyer serves every 1400 low-income individuals in the United States, showing that even the lawyers themselves are part of this economic democracy-corrupting the country. Nobody is willing to help the poor and the victimized because they see no financial gain in this practice and therefore, they would not hesitate to help the wealthy criminals in accusing the poor innocents. Such are examples of mixed realities between principles and practice of the judicial system in the United States, which claims to be the most democratic country across the globe.

The America’s criminal justice system illustrates the wider gap existing in daily realities and public perception. The Americans widely believe that the system overprotects the criminals, their lawyers help in getting them off technicalities, these are ideas promoted by modern media such as movies, televisions and commercialized trials like the case of O.J Simpson, and this is not the reality that many minorities face during their persecution. There is always a cost for every stone turned in these persecutions charged by the lawyers and not everyone can afford such expense. Very few Americans possess knowledge of what goes on through the justice system, and even those who hold this knowledge are not highly motivated to fight against the ugly truth that faces the minorities. Most of the groups that majorly need the legal assistance are the ones who have been denied this opportunity by the criminal justice system, and they lack accessibility to any political advantage that would help them in dire times. The wealthy manipulate the judicial system in their favor because either way the system is desperate to serve them and as a result, no one pays attention to the poor who are always oppressed.

Mass Incarceration

The term mass incarceration refers to the increase in the number of people incarcerated in the United States’ prisons in the last forty years, and racial disparities characterize this. Since the ages of slavery, many correctional facilities have tried to confine and control the Black Americans, and the first scenario is the chattel slavery that led to the rise of racial divisions until the end of Civil War. The second and most common is the Jim Crow where there was legal enforcement of racial discrimination and segregation that dominated the United States until the revolution of the Civil Rights. In modern day, the devices for controlling and containing the African Americans are the ghettos and the prisons, and the best way these are put to practice is by creating a legal system that does not support their privileges.

Racial discrimination in the United States today is not a precondition, but rather is a consequence of slavery started by the Whites and since it was established, the idea actively exists till today in the minds of the citizens. Prisons are considered as the modern day ghettos just as ghettos were referred to as prisons set exclusively for the Black so that they cannot be part of the general population enjoying the social benefits of the country. As it was previously stated, the criminal justice system is reserved to only help the wealthy and exclude the minority; this is an idea that is rooted deep into the Congress as well and leads to misdistribution of resources so that others only get a drip of what is left after the rich secure what is enough for them. The result of this is that the minorities do not get financial advantages and are forced to resort to dealing with criminal activities that would lead them to jail. Therefore, either way, they are still kept in the ghetto in the form of prisons or living in poor conditions. Through this framework, it becomes easy to incarcerate the minorities in America.

The concept of mass incarceration is a form of ethnoracial control whereby the judicial systems seeks to stigmatize, constrain, confine territorially and practice institutional encasement so that there is something known as a distinct space made up of an ethnically homogenous group of people. These groups of people tend to interact with the other individuals differently and sometimes act as their subordinates because they are granted more rights than them. The ghettos are the same as prisons and just as the population of the minorities in the ghettos is increasing so is their number in prison as a way of controlling the population. The reason for the increased racial incarceration in the United States is the fact that the minorities have no one to defend them and they do not have direct access to the legal system because of their social status and financial incapability.

The sad reality behind mass incarceration is the idea that the judicial system uses this policy as a way of sweeping most of the Black people from the street with an excuse of eliminating criminals from the streets. These individuals are not honestly presented both in the existing works of literature and in reality. The judicial system is made up of corrupt people still holding onto the beliefs of racism and believe the best way to control this population is sending them behind bars to be confined and monitored.

Drug Policy

One of the principal reasons for systematic incarceration is the drug policy, whereby most of the minorities are imprisoned for drug-related crimes. The blame of increased drug-related crimes cannot only be put on the Hispanics and Blacks who make up the majority of individuals in prison prosecuted for offending the drug policy. The American government spends millions of dollars in trying to control drug trafficking and abuse in the country, and most of the criminals happen to be blacks. Does this mean it is the Blacks who consume many drugs and control the drug movements in the country? The answer is a simple no because the drug issue is found anywhere and everywhere in the country, but the fact that it is the Blacks who are mainly admitted compared to the Whites raises and alarm in the transparency of the judicial system. The issue of race in this context is not as clear as one would point out in the 1950s and 1960s since it is rare for people to show racial connections to such criminal cases.

The issue here relates to the question of who will defend the accused. Reports show that thousands of the minorities are convicted every year in criminal proceedings because they lack an adequate lawyer who would represent them efficiently and who would go the extra length to ensure that every stone is turned and every perspective is exploited. It is important to understand that on the drug issues, most of the minorities are often the intermediaries, used to communicate with an affluent consumer and a rich dealer. It is very rare to come across cases whereby you hear a drug lord or a rich customer has been arrested about cases of drugs, but it is common to come across circumstances where some young black man is convicted for possession drugs. The intermediaries are only individuals seeking to find a way of securing an income since they come from societies denied economic privileges. This shows that the rich parties buy off favors from criminal justice so that their names are not mentioned in the hearing, and the result is that it is the poor individuals who end up getting executed for the crimes of others because they have no one who can defend them. These people once incarcerated are later released when they have no other means of survival and sending them down the financial drains so that they have no means of defending themselves against the harsh arm of the law.

From a distance, it is easy to argue against the points in this paper and claim that the American judicial system is fair and just and practices equal justice to everyone irrespective of their cultural background. By having a close assessment one can easily realize that the whole idea of the war on drugs and Black being the most criminals is but a way the judicial system is set to practice these unrealistic forms of governance. Such are encouraged by the law enforcers granted extraordinary discretion on who they need to stop and convict for drug offenses, and at the same time closing all the judicial doors to the defendants trying to object their arrest on the grounds of racial discrimination.

Police Brutality

Police brutality refers to the abuse of the authority by the law enforcers who cause the unauthorized use of forces in performing the duties. Police brutality is not only limited to the stories that we hear every day on the news concerning a White law enforcement officer brutally beating an African-American as a way of social justice but extends to the environs of the prisons where correction personnel over-exercise their power beyond jurisdictions in the name of reforming an individual. The term police brutality is commonly used concerning physical harm caused by the law enforcers, but it also relates to psychological harm resulting from the police on an individual through acts of intimidation beyond what is sanctioned by the law. The issue of police brutality goes way back to the mid-1900s during the Civil Rights Movements when the police officers would use force as a way of controlling the Blacks who were marching for their rights in the streets of America.

This is an issue that is not only exclusive to the 1900s, and it is evident even in the society today where police officers use vigorous force in controlling crowds and to some extent, but it is also allowed by the criminal justice system. Police brutality through history and even today is closely connected to racial profiling because of the difference in race existing between a victim and the police officers. It is very rare to come across cases where a Black police officer brutally beats a White individual as a way of correcting the offender or a particular crowd, yet it is common to hear cases of a White officer who uses forces against Black individuals, charged by the judicial system and later let to walk free from the charges. This shows us that the American criminal justice system tends to overlook atrocities caused by the White upon Blacks and that the law is in a way designed to develop a Black individual as someone violent who promptly uses force to defend themselves from the law, and this is an example of racial prejudice within the judicial system.

Since Blacks are already perceived to be a threat to the law, it is difficult for the law to consider the defendants point-of-view in the story or even consider to hear their side of victimization. The fact that the society has been made to believe that Blacks are a threat shows that the criminal justice system encourages this ideology by portraying most of the Black men as the offenders and a threat to the society. Studies show that most cases of police brutality based on racial grounds go undocumented and this raises questions as to why no one wants to speak or advocate for such atrocities in the United States.

The American Judicial System in Comparison to Other Nations

The American criminal justice system is portrayed as defined by certain individuals who dictate what democracy and the individuals who benefit from the concept of democracy. Not everyone is entitled to take advantage from this ‘equal justice under law,’ and most of the people who are oppressed under this law are the Blacks and the poor. The main reason they suffer is that in the American judicial system there is inadequate legal assistance attending to the defendants and as a result, the criminal takes advantage of this to cause mass incarceration in the prison systems.

This is not the same case with what is practiced in Eritrea. In the United States, the population representatives come together to design a system that offers equal rights among all, but its implication is left in the hands of the criminal justice system. In Eritrea, it was a different case, the constitution was designed by listening to the challenges faced by the various communities and creating a solution that serves everyone equally; and this is a clear example of what democracy in the judicial system consists of, the people.

The parliament of the Eritrea ensures that the public participates in the political affairs without exclusivity as a way of ensuring that social justice is practiced to its best ability. As a result, this brings about transparency in what the government does and why they make certain ideas relating to particular issues. The idea of approaching different communities to understand the challenges and solution to the social problems is a practice that is common in many African countries such as Kenya, and this is known as a traditional justice system. With traditional justice system, the parliament recognizes the different cultures within the country and seeks to understand and incorporate their customary laws into the judicial system. In doing this, the criminal justice system in these countries appreciates the presence of every culture by ensuring democracy. The United States, on the other hand, promotes non-traditional justice system that considers everyone equal and therefore drafts a constitution that assumes everyone is favored under the same law. The American judicial system is limiting as it does not recognize the fact that people are not the same and different cultures approach different issues differently, and instead, it creates a system that forces the Blacks to assimilate to the lifestyle of the Whites and not vice versa. With the traditional justice system, authorities are recognized from the community level, and this promotes peace and understanding between the law and the different communities because these law enforcers understand the nature and beliefs of the indigenous communities.


Much can be said about the failing criminal justice system of the United States, and it is because they lack transparency in their practice. At the same time, their different decisions illustrate how they favor a particular group of individuals over the minorities. The legal system of America is failing, and this is mainly because the poor and minorities do not have access to the legal assistance and this leaves them frozen out as people who do not matter to the criminal justice. Lack of accountability promotes racial and cultural prejudice in the system because they system is owned by the wealthy who control the power of the judiciary. It is high time that the public understands that the criminal justice system and with the help of the parliament they should address the increasing gap between realities what the public perceives. Democracy no longer means that the power is in the hands of the citizens if there is no equal access to the judicial system, it only means that it is the majority who wins and controls the governance of the country as seen in the United States.


Alexander, Michelle. New jim crow: mass incarceration in the age of colorblindness. Place of publication not identified: New Press, 2016.

Falk, Gerhard. The American Criminal Justice System: How it Works, how it Doesn't, and how to Fix it. ABC-CLIO, 2010.

Forer, Lois G. "Money and Justice: Who Owns the Courts?" Michigan Law Review 83, no. 4 (1985): 1150. doi:10.2307/1288810.

Ringelheim, Julie. "Integrating Cultural Concerns in the Interpretation of Traditional Individual Rights: Lessons from the International Human Rights Jurisprudence." Spheres of Global Justice, 2013, 203-15. doi:10.1007/978-94-007-5998-5_16.

Selassie, Bereket Habte . "Democracy and the Role of Parliament under the Eritrean Constitution." NORTH CAROLINA JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL LAW AND COMMERCIAL REGULATION, 1st ser., 24, no. 2 (Winter 1999): 227-61. doi:10.1017/9781107707443.010.

Stuntz, William J. The collapse of American criminal justice. Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2013.

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