Summary: The great potential of the American experiment, the American dream, is a gift handed down from generation to generation from the Founders to us. But we have forgotten what it means. That is the major significance to the collapse of our criminal justice system; like a mirror, it shows who we are. At the end are links to other posts in this series.
For we must consider that we shall be a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us, so that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a byword though the world.
— John Winthrop, A Model of Christian Charity (1630)
The essence of self-government is not freedom. Not rights. Not prosperity. Those are its rewards for people who work hard and have good fortune (hoped for but never guaranteed). The essence of self-government is responsibility. We assume responsibility for ourselves, for our government, for our nation. That should weigh heavily on us, and motivate us to do whatever it takes to properly run America.
“It’s not my fault” is the motto of peons. Comforting. But such beliefs demotivate us, breaking the cogs from the gears that should drive the Constitutional machinery.
Which brings us back to our criminal justice system. Many will say that however shameful, however destructive of those enmeshed in it, reform must wait for better times. External enemies (we always have those). Economic problems. Dysfunctional politics. Social problems. Especially since it afflicts just criminals.
But the justice system occupies a unique position in the State. An exercise of power we give the State to exercise on fellow citizens, for which we bear the direct responsibility. Worse, a corrupt and abusive criminal justice system can become a danger to us — the servant of our increasingly out of control governing elites.
Please read though the first two chapters of this series. Fifty-two articles detailing shameful abuses. Like health care, we suffer from poorly performing institutions doing functions done much better by almost all of our peers in the developed world. It is sad reading. There is not much to say about this, other than to quote John 11:35:
We can do better.
Other posts about our criminal justice system
- An opportunity to look in the mirror, to more clearly see America, 10 November 2009 — About our prisons
- Nixon declared war on drugs, a major investment of America in itself – but one that’s gone bad, 21 May 2010
- The Feds decide who to lock up for life (not just at Guantanamo), another nail in the Constitution’s coffin, 2 June 2010
- Being a third world nation is a state of mind, as we will learn (about prison rape), 19 March 2011
- Our prisons are a mirror showing the soul of America. It’s not a pretty picture., 28 March 2011
- The Collapse of American Criminal Justice System — Excerpts from The Collapse of American Criminal Justice by William J. Stuntz
- More about the collapse of the American Criminal Justice System — Studies and reports about our shameful system.