So I’m sitting in Ethics class right now, (typing a blog post, how ethical is that? very, I think) discussing the systematic evil in our justice system. Here are a few of the questions asked:
"The numbers of minorities in prison is outrageous, why is that?"
"The sentencing for people guilty of similar crimes of different races is clearly disproportionate, why is that?"
"Why are so few people sentenced to death for murder, and why are those that are?"
Also discussed were the multiplicity of factors that contribute to crime, particularly juvenile crime.
So my question is, what can we actually do about it. The professor Dr. Dufault-Hunter, is suggesting advocacy, and that’s good, but what would you or I say to a judge or a cop that is in the system right now?
Hmmm…why don’t we ask the prof? (raising hand…waiting…still waiting, uh oh, were talking about something else now…o good were back to juvenile justice…still waiting…she’s looking at me, good, I get to ask my question)
Me: “What do we say to the cop or the judge that has to make a decision this afternoon?"
Prof: “we need to look at the sentencing, I think the judge we read about in No Matter How Loud I Shout, is a good example.”
Me: “about sentencing, earlier we were discussing the fact that so many minorities are in jail, and white people spend less time in jail than minorities for the same crime. These facts would appear to support sentencing guidelines, yet we have been critiquing sentencing guidelines, such as three strikes law, because they result in people going to jail for long periods of time for 3rd offenses of a minor nature. If not sentencing guidelines then what?”
Prof: “the answer goes back to the different levels of holistic ethics that we read about in Stassen and Gussen’s book, Kingdom Ethics, a lot of times we are talking at different levels.”
If you don’t find that answer satisfactory, your not alone, but to be fair it was a bit of an ambush on my part, and the subject as a whole is very challenging, not one that can be addressed in a short question and answer session.
Though I suspect that many of you would disagree quite a bit with Dr. Dufault-Hunter’s politics, I assure you she is none-the-less an excellent teacher.
A bit of reflection following the class period.
The major problem we discussed is the injustice in the penal system, particularly the juvenile justice system. I think there is a great deal of truth to what was brought up, but I’m much less enthusiastic about the solutions, or better stated, the lack there of. What I would like to hear is an actual judicial or legislative proposal, which to be fair I suppose is outside the scope of this class, still, I feel mildly cynical about the whole thing. We have a lot of “smart” students sitting around discussing these things, led by a really “smart” professor, but I wonder how realistic we are being? But then maybe unrealistic forward leaning ideas are a good thing, possibly even prophetic.
Theoretically, we are up on a hill able to rise above the day to day politics and see a clear way ahead, but what if we have climbed too far up the mountain, what if we are completely out of touch with what is happening down below. I suspect that both realities are true to a certain degree. That said, in defense of the prof and others, the lack of a solution does not mean we should not discuss the problems. On the contrary, it is only when we are willing to discuss things that a solution can be imagined.