Sunday, August 21, 2011

Reinventing Our Criminal Justice System

Reforming our trial system.
Our trial system is adversarial: two lawyers seeking not the truth but to win. As a result, the winning side is often not the more meritorious but the one with the better lawyer. Our system of justice, alas, is far from blind.

I believe that justice would more often be served if the lawyers, along with the judge, were neutrals. They'd divide the work of investigating the case into thirds. Then they'd discuss the results and vote on a decision. Or in the case of a jury trial, each investigator would present his or her one-third of the investigation's results to the jury for a decision.

Sentencing Reform

Prison costs a fortune yet the recidivism rate is very high: Two-thirds of felons are rearrested within a year of release.

I'd like to see studies assessing which alternative sentencing would work well for what kinds of offenders. For example, the recidivism rate for murder, robbery, sex crimes, drug crimes should be compared among offenders who receive a sentence of GPS and video monitoring versus prison, taxpayer-paid jobs versus prison, each combined with interventions ranging from garden planting and pet adoption to job training to, in the case of repeat sex offenders, reversible chemical castration, and for repeat violent criminals, reversible long-term slow-release tranquilizer or other violence-inhibiting drug.

Reforming the capital crimes appeal process

When someone is convicted of first-degree murder and receives a death sentence, the average lawyer drags out the appeals process for 13 years. And only one in 10 who receive the death penalty ever actually gets executed. In California, it's 1 in 100.

It would seem that two appeals to occur within two years of sentencing would more appropriately balance protecting defendant rights and taxpayer dollars, while sending the public the message that our laws will be enforced in a reasonably timely manner.

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