Justice, an Antiquated Notion

behindbars

By Alison Wakelin

Alison WakelinThe American justice system, “the best in the world” as we often hear on Sunday morning talk shows, has become a travesty of its former self. Even the most foundational of truths, the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, is under severe threat today. Like justice, it is becoming an antiquated notion.

Twenty-five percent of people in jail in this nation have not been convicted of any crime but are confined because they cannot come up with cash for bail. And for what are they waiting? Most of us assume they are awaiting trial, but it turns out only 3 percent of them will actually get a trial. 97% will plead guilty to something, even if they are totally innocent, rather than risk a longer sentence by appearing before a jury, on the advice of their defense attorney. This defense attorney may well have spent only five minutes reviewing the case before giving this advice, because it has nothing to do with the defendant. It has everything to do with the system.

In too many states, there is no requirement a prosecutor demonstrate criminal intent. Possibly for those who can afford an expensive defense attorney, this would be brought up as a defense, but generally, intent is irrelevant. Overwhelming numbers have now been criminalized by the system, as evidenced by the fact that with 5% of the world’s population America has 25% of the world’s prisoners. It seems highly unlikely that Americans are so much more inclined than the rest of the world to have criminal intentions, and so we must look elsewhere for an explanation.

The result of these overwhelming numbers has been a great increase in funding for prosecutors, with no corresponding increase for defense. It is a prosecutor’s dream. And to assure convictions, prosecutors simply have to add in a charge that carries with it a six-year mandatory minimum sentence. Few defendants are willing to risk this when they can plead guilty to a lesser charge that puts them in jail for a mere few months, or even lets them out with only probation.

On top of prosecutors overzealous for the advancement of their careers and callous to the results of their actions on the accused, the system is now a huge moneymaker for all sorts of people, like the owners of private prisons who make a fortune with little oversight on the conditions within the prisons. Inmates die daily due to mistreatment and indifference to their plight. Any resistance on the part of an inmate is likely to result in long periods in isolation, and it is inevitable that many come out with severe mental problems. Many went in with severe mental problems because America doesn’t have alternative treatments available.

First and foremost, the value of a human being transcends any system. A human being has unique, cosmic, divine value. Certainly this does not preclude the need for a course correction in any one life, but it makes the idea of jail as merely punishment quite simply wrong. In a recent 60 Minutes episode, the U.S. prison system was compared with the German system (which is fairly representative of Europe as a whole) and the glaring deficiencies and injustices were clearly demonstrated. America seems to have no interest in reform (the recidivism rate is huge compared to that of Germany) and no interest in rehabilitation, since reentry is so difficult that it effectively prevents an ex-felon from reentering society.

Healing as a part of prison life would be considered laughable in many circles in the American criminal justice system. And yet Germany, so lenient that inmates get time out of jail to visit family periodically, has proven to be much more successful in limiting crime. Prisoners receive counseling and investment, not punishment, mistreatment and solitary confinement. And they demonstrate reform, returning to society changed, not full of deep resentment and anger.

The American system is a demonstration of accusation run wild, a society so deeply invested in accusation that everything must be documented endlessly as a priority before any action can take place, as protection from a possible lawsuit. In Principled terms, we are seeing an archangelic nation having difficulty separating from its archangelic tendencies.

In recognizing the archangelic nature here, we also see the hope for reform. Looking into the history of this land and its people, we find a different perspective within native American traditions, one more reflective of feminine values and focused on the people, not on the system:

“Take as an example, Blackfoot justice. What we would term a crime is, to many indigenous people, a disruption of the harmonious working of their society. Rather than approaching this disorder in terms of adversarial trial, proof, guilt and punishment, a circle of elders meet with the aggrieved party and perpetrator. Discussion within this circle is not so much designed to establish the factuality of what has occurred but rather it seeks a way of restoring balance. Thus the perpetrator may be asked to suggest some action that would satisfy all parties. Finally, when everyone is again in a balanced relationship the decision is made public.”

(From F. David Peat, Blackfoot Physics and European Minds)

The rule of law can be used as an instrument of deep injustice without human input, and, as is the case, when the human input is too one-sided. The native American tradition rests on a more holistic foundation, one that recognizes the value of the community, and the inherent need for all people to be accepted unless they themselves specifically reject their place as part of the whole. It is generally an expression of a more feminine perspective, so lacking in today’s criminal justice system.

We cannot leave the U.S. criminal justice system to those who work in it because they have a strong tendency to think in terms defined by the system. Their lives and careers are shaped by the hopelessness of seeing daily injustice, or indeed by the profit to their own lives bought at the expense of injustice to others, in the end, a much deeper injury to their own lives. We cannot leave it to our legislators because they will be too influenced by questions of funding, by the need to appear tough on crime, and so many other factors.

Cellblock Rikers Island

A cell block on Rikers Island, New York City’s main jail complex.

What we can do is set up ways to prevent people from coming into contact with the system, collectively finance legal clinics to help those too poor to fight the system, educate ourselves, and be very vocal about what we believe a justice system should be doing.

Priorities for criminal justice reform should include:

  1. End cash bail. Keep people in jail who are likely to be violent or a threat to society, and give all others a court date without incarceration in the interim.
  1. Demand that prosecutors prove criminal intent.
  1. End the War on Drugs. If you doubt this has been a disaster, read “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander.
  1. Provide oversight to the activities of prosecutors and judges. Prosecutors who tack on charges that carry mandatory minimums on a regular basis just to get guilty verdicts should be reprimanded.
  1. Municipalities can seek ways to set up their own programs to deal with young offenders before they get into the criminal justice system. There are plenty of retired but energetic citizens who would find meaning and purpose in serving on a panel that performs such a role. School districts that currently send their children directly to jail from school would have an obvious alternative, and many police departments would be happy to use these programs.

Each generation challenges the previous generation. However, seldom have values changed so much in so short a time. Our post-Foundation Day world offers us an opportunity for rapid advancement, and indeed, we find ourselves at a critical juncture, a time when everyone knows something is deeply wrong and knows we must make real changes.

The foundation for the systems of our nation comes from a very masculine tradition, but we have reached a time when, without major feminine involvement in the evolution of our systems —  justice, health, economic, government, etc. — the battle for our children’s future may be won by humanity’s archangelic tendencies for yet another generation.

Sometimes it feels like you are more in control if you hold on to a truth you know, rather than risk letting go and moving into a new paradigm — but that is what the state of our world calls us to do at this time. Without expression of the feminine nature of God, and accepting our children unconditionally just as they are (not denying the more masculine expression, which demands adherence to right behavior, but recognizing this is an already well-established tradition), we leave them as prey to the ministrations of a system that is increasingly becoming more controlling and bound up in accusation.

We have bequeathed to our children the task of sorting out what is true and what is not true, what is considered a crime and what is a desperate cry for help. We need to support them by allowing them the freedom to do this without criminalizing so much of what they do. Loving our children requires loving all children, which without doubt is the most urgent calling of any woman or man in this world today.♦

Alison Wakelin (UTS Class of 1989) has an M.A. in Astrophysics from Princeton University and is currently Senior Lecturer in Physics and Astronomy at Widener University in Chester, Pennsylvania. Previously, she lived and worked in Korea for ten years.

14 thoughts on “Justice, an Antiquated Notion

  1. This is a surprisingly stark analysis and courageous position. And on a topic seldom discussed in religiously conservative circles. I saw the truth of Wakelin’s premises when I worked for seven years with men moving from prison to a halfway house. The justice system is profoundly unjust. Heaven help you if you end up getting accused of a crime and you are not wealthy. And worse, if you have dark skin.

  2. This article raises many important issues related to inequality, dysfunction, profiteering, lack of compassion, and excessive jailing by the criminal justice system(s) in the United States. Unfortunately, these problems pervade nearly every bureaucracy to some extent, but the prison system problems are glaring because so many people are clearly not treated justly.

    Paragon House published a book in 2004 by Judge John F. Molloy, who helped write the Miranda Rights legislation. After he retired, he was confronted by great guilt and wrote The Fraternity: Lawyers and Judges in Collusion. In it, he argued that individuals were more likely to get a much fairer trial in the mid-19th century by a jury of their peers than they are today. In fact, rules of procedure and evidence prevent juries from access to much-needed information to make the best human decisions. Moreover, our legal system has become a poor substitute for cultural traditions, with judges being America’s priests and the Supreme Court being a god.

    A good part of the problem of contemporary liberal society is the over-reliance on law as a substitute for cultural norms, values, and traditions in the United States. And, part of that problem stems from the naive assumption that in a pluralistic society there must be value neutrality: e.g., every parenting style, and every ethnic, racial, religious, and sexual tradition is equally valuable. This is false; not all lifestyles in homes prepare people equally for school, self-control, social functionality, or life in general. Unfortunately, it is a great taboo for sociologists to cite data that might make one cultural tradition or parenting style look better than another for raising kids to be successful and stay out of jail in the first place — which is one of the reasons we have such high school dropout rates and incarcerations in certain cultural groups.

    • We have the answer, Robert, but it’s a difficult task. Blessed families need to establish the four-position-foundation and inspire others to receive the Blessing and do the same. Isn’t this our primary mission?

  3. Alison has produced an article revealing the brutal reality of today‘s so-called “justice” in the U.S. (click on the “die daily” hyperlink in the text of her article and see the 60 Minutes video illustrating the atrocities at New York’s Rikers Island). But her reference to archangelic vs. feminine as representing masculine and feminine perspectives is not, I believe, accurate.

    Both men and women under Satanic influence can be heartless creatures (as was the well-publicized woman soldier with the leash at Abu Ghraib prison). Both genders that have done well in separating themselves from Satan can reach the same conclusion as Alison regarding how much better people accused or convicted of crimes should be treated. If Alison would also like to get support from men to solve this or other problems, I suggest she not single them out as the gender representative of the archangelic nature. Remember, even before Adam, Eve inherited the archangel’s fallen nature. Such a biased view that this is a masculine trait is in effect a way of demeaning men, and that will most assuredly dampen the desire of some men to cooperate with her in solving such problems.

    I don’t know, but maybe the percentage of compassionate men compared to women is lower. However, I‘ve seen plenty of men, including myself, who, when inspired, have acted righteously. The question is what’s the best way to get both men and women to do the right thing, and when it’s possible, to do it together.

    The tradition Alison describes as a masculine tradition is not masculine; it’s Satanic.

    • I would say no one is completely masculine and no one is completely feminine. We all have the capacity to develop either nature according to our choices, and so to the extent that women have chosen to manifest the more masculine sides of their character, they have been vulnerable to the fallen nature that we have described as archangelic. However, the feminine fallen natures come more from having believed the archangel’s accusations instead of being in the position of the archangel.

      Eve was more a victim of the accusation than one who went on to become an accuser. Had Eve been more mature she would never have believed that God could not love her because she had been seduced into premature love, but given her immaturity she believed the archangel when he told her she had destroyed God’s creation and she would be forever cursed. She believed Adam when he told God it was the woman’s fault, leaving her with no place to turn, since she heard only masculine assessments of the situation.

      Women have not manifested the desire to leave their proper position, to disobey their leaders, etc. Historically they have manifested a deep lack of confidence and a desire to please and avoid conflict. They have been the victims, and even now as we move into a new age of women finally starting to manifest more of their true nature, still the urge to deny their own opinions and let others make decisions for them is strong.

      Men outnumber women in recent mass shootings and violent crimes by a factor of at least 20 to 1. Men have traditionally kept women out of leadership roles, not the other way round. There are many inequities. On the other hand, I think women would mostly prefer to raise their own children, to love their men, to make a beautiful home, etc., given a way to do this without losing the path to also accomplish their own desires and goals. Men and women are different, and I see it as hardly surprising that their fallen natures are different.

      • Fallen nature, i.e., selfishness and absolute self-centered living, are the causes of crime. Without eradicating fallen nature, it will be virtually impossible to create a “more perfect union.” This is the first step. Educating society at large about self-centered living will initiate bringing crime down to low levels, and in the perfect world, none at all.

        Fallen nature crosses gender lines and is expressed differently, but it is still the same fallen nature. True Father, Jesus, and all the great saints gave their lives to reach us and teach us all. The justice system in the U.S. was designed for fairness, but fallen nature has invaded the system and resulted in twisted justice. The family model plays a huge role in controlling criminal actions, but consider the sad condition of the American family these days.

        So, Principle education, living for the true sake of others, rehabilitation (is there anyone not in need of some sort of rehabilitation whether or not they are considered a criminal?), receiving the Blessing, and continuous effort all through life to separate from evil and selfishness will bring about the world with no prosecutors or judges that True Father forecast.

        Aju to Alison for bringing up the subject.

  4. Please study the Korean judicial system too! Drugs are not accepted by the government and even VIP’s or TV/movie stars do time when they are caught. The war on drugs perhaps need fresh strategies. People who are convicted do not hold their heads up shamelessly, but cover themselves as much as they can.

  5. Paul Herman is right. It is an inherent problem in the justice system whereby federal code is written specifically so that the justice system is designed for punishment, not rehabilitation. By law judges and prosecutors use the justice system to meet their ends. Most defense lawyers have given up defending the accused because they simply cannot win their case.

    Look at the number of inmates who have been released after spending more than 20 years in prison because the evidence which was available and should have been used to exonerate defendants is blocked, not recognized, missing, or conveniently lost until someone has been punished for so many years their lives are ruined even when they are released (See the Innocence Project).

    It doesn’t matter if men or women in the position of prosecutor or judge decide the fate of the accused. In reality, by Principle, the fate of the accused is determined by conscience, not by fallen people. True Father predicted that in the future there will be no prosecutors or judges because the community model of restitution will be in place, not the perverted, twisted system now used in the United States. More punishment can have the negative social effect of more crime, in the end.

    One other point Alison makes regards the “threat to society” in her description of the problem many have with not being able to make bail. This is the same very vague term used by prosecutors to mass jail arrestees, without substantially evidencing what the “threat” is. Vague terms need to be quashed and defined. Conspiracy and perjury are two examples of how prosecutors (and judges in collusion) use vague terms to enhance sentences and create dangerous conditions for the accused.

    A rehabilitated justice system will require absolutes in evidence, not vagueness, trickery, plea-bargaining, enhancements, threats, or misbehavior by prosecutors. There should be a system to hold prosecutors liable for contributing to false imprisonments and enhancements beyond the requirements of the law or recommendations of the sentencing guidelines. Again, a system to hold prosecutors legally and civilly liable is a first step to check and correct a runaway system that is not fair to the accused and which disregards Constitutional protections for all.

  6. Beautiful and timely commentary on this relevant issue. Of course, there are further aspects to be considered if one is seeking a complete answer.

    Such as what it is in U.S. society that triggers selfish to criminal behavior more so than in native societies…and other cultures.

    Thank you for this article.

  7. The statement that the U.S. has 5% of the world’s population and 25% of the world’s prison population needs to be more carefully nuanced. As of July 4, 2014, the U.S. population stood at 319 million, 4.4% of the approximately 7.1 billion world population. So that part of the statement is correct. According to the Washington Post, the second part comes from the UK’s World Prison Population list. Its most recent edition used data from 222 countries from 2011-13. It showed 2.24 million prisoners in the United States as of Dec. 31, 2011 or about 22% of the global prison population (10.2 million). About half of the prisoners in the world were in the United States, Russia or China.

    One problem with the numbers is that they are incomplete. The most recent report does not include figures for Eritrea, Guinea-Bissau, Somalia and North Korea. In addition, China and Iran are thought to downplay their numbers. Another unfortunate reality is that some repressive countries with more violent police forces likely have fewer people who are tried, convicted and imprisoned, and more people beaten or killed on the street.

    This is not to vindicate the U.S. Its prison population rate of 716 per 100,000 people is about six times Canada’s rate and between six to nine times Western European countries. So in citing these figures it’s best to note that the comparison is between the world’s “reported” prison population and that the U.S. prison population rates are high in comparison to “civilized” nations.

  8. Of course, the fact that the numbers of the prison population in the US are high can also mean that there is more seriousness in the American justice system in order to have people pay for their mistakes, the damage they did to society in general, and to individuals in particular. After all, the DP also states that there is a righteous “indemnity” aspect to people having to go to prison for their offenses and crimes. Rehabilitation ought to be part of the process, education, etc. But this doesn’t mean that there should be many more rights given to prisoners, like telephoning freely old “friends,” running gangs within the prison, etc., but instead, more contact with spiritual and educational programs, I think.

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