Opinion
The United States’ criminal justice system is flawed
By
Contributing Writer
Thursday, February 25, 2016

Most people are taught at a young age to understand that sometimes life just isn’t fair. But, this isn’t as easy to process as it seems — especially when dealing with the criminal justice system.

After reading a segment done by the blog, “Humans of New York,” I finally realized how unjust the sentencing for criminals truly is. This piece consisted of stories from inmates from five various prisons across the Northeast. As I read each feature, I just became more and more infuriated with the way we handle some crimes here in America.

One woman’s story reads, “I was alone with four kids. My mother was sick … They gave me a job as a transporter. I drove cocaine from Manhattan to Massachusetts … I only had a few clients. I never did any drugs myself … I knew I’d done wrong, but I’d never been in trouble before. I thought I would do a little time in jail … I was given 25 years.”

I realize that the transportation of drugs is a serious crime and should be reprimanded, but 25 years in prison — with regard to this woman’s past — is very extreme.

In fact, that is the same sentence that someone convicted for child molestation is given.

How does this possibly add up? In what world can someone who transfers drugs from one place to another, without doing anything else with them, get in the same amount of trouble as someone who viciously abuses a child?

Another story reads, “I was working at a night club in Honduras, making four dollars a night, and some guy tells me I can make $6,000 in 12 days just by working on a boat. There weren’t any jobs in Honduras … It’s really tough to say ‘no’ when there are no other options for money… So my job was to maintain the vessel and help load the cargo. I’ve never done drugs in my life. On my fourth trip, we were stopped in international waters by the U.S. coastguard That was 10 years ago.”

Once again, here is another story of a somewhat harmless man who took part in transporting drugs in order to make a living. Of course, there should be consequences for his actions, but is more than 10 years in prison really the answer? One could transport a minor across state lines for the purpose of prostitution and still serve the same sentence.

The last story that I have selected reads, “I was convicted of distributing a large amount of crack cocaine. I was offered 60 months to cooperate, but I turned it down … I couldn’t bring someone else down with me, so they gave me five life sentences.”

I cannot even seem to fathom how a ruling can change so quickly from around five years to five life sentences just because of someone’s failure to assist the authorities’.

First degree murderers don’t even receive a sentence for that long. Those two crimes shouldn’t even compare.

The U.S. has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world, and after reading a few of these stories featured on “Humans of New York,” I am beginning to understand why.

It seems as though we throw people in prison for an allotted amount of time without respect to the story behind why exactly they committed the crime in the first place. Some of these people aren’t real criminals, and the real ones are still walking the streets.