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elizabeth tobey

I’ve noticed a lot of talk about justice reform lately, but one thing that I’m not seeing is a viable suggestion for redress of these issues. One that seems glaringly obvious to me, but seemingly not to legislators/congress, is reformation/rehabilitation being acknowledged and promoted. From a ‘boots on the ground’ perspective, I see the social mal-contention and understand why it exists. I suppose, by now, many of you have some idea that American society isn’t really happy right now. They’re disillusioned, tired, hopeless- oh, and angry. What are the people on Capital Hill doing up there?! In all their involvement to bring Democracy and economic prosperity to other countries, have they forgotten about their own citizens?! I’ve been on this planet for 49 years, have had many, many life experiences (some good, some not so good- but all life lessons), and have never seen the country as divided and angry as it appears to be today. We live in a country that, in theory, has the potential for great ‘quality of life’. Until we really look at the reality of it. We have no real profitable export. Our two biggest industries are the legal system and healthcare; both of which are very selective in their hiring processes; and need sick people and ‘criminals’ to flourish (and I guess I don’t need to tell you the ‘flaw’ in this design). The richest 1–10% of the population controls most of the wealth. Our government is so divided; as to be ineffectual. We have a crazy number of people caught up in the justice system; more than any country on the planet. And this is something I really want to speak to; because I think it is at the core of much of our discontent- pitting citizen against citizen- communities against congress. And it’s not just a racial issue; though there is that as well. The judicial system has gotten far too punitive. The monolithic criminal justice system needs revenue to self-generate (having people in the penal system gets pretty spendy). This translates into more arrests- more laws- more $$. I probably don’t need to tell you this, but Justice and Profit make poor bedfellows. This will create more descent and hostility than anything I can think of. People have very strong feelings when it comes to Justice granted- punishment applied; excessive punishment- justice denied. The latter, is my key point. Excessive vilification for seemingly lesser offenses is what really gets people riled up. They (legislators) have just been pandering to groups that scream the loudest. They don’t seem to care about the spirit of the law today; just potential liability. They don’t care about ‘intent’ anymore; just numbers. They’ve lost sight and perspective. They need to quit pandering and using blanket policies; they need to start addressing the issue of Reformation and Rehabilitation. This seems so obvious, as to be a ‘no brainer’- but we’re not seeing it. Isn’t that the point of the penal system- to ‘punish’ and deter?! One would think so! But if the ‘collateral’ consequences of a criminal record exceed initial punishment, into the realm of ‘self sustainability’, how can one expect to move forward w/ their lives?! Unless this is intended to keep people w/ some form of criminal record, misdemeanor or felony, in menial jobs for the rest of their lives- I don’t understand why rehabilitation is not being addressed. Maybe it is intentional. But if it is intentional, shouldn’t colleges inform students- w/ some form of criminal record- not to bother going to college or improving themselves; or taking out student loans they have no way of paying back?! With ¼ to 1/3 of the country having some form of criminal record, that’s a whole lot of people that will fail to flourish, that will lose jobs to new immigrants, that will have no hope for a brighter future. Its one thing to keep working toward a goal that you ‘think’ may pay off; it’s another to ‘know’ you will be stuck where you are, for the rest of your days. I could understand this if one has done heinous things; things that would cause society to be extremely guarded. After all, some crimes are too horrific to be forgiven. But that’s not the case w/ a majority of those in our criminal justice system.

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