How can we rebalance our broken criminal justice system to restore equal justice for all?
The purpose of criminal law is to protect the rights of individuals.
Laws should be limited to violations of the rights of others through force or fraud or deliberate actions that place others involuntarily at significant risk of harm.
Laws should discourage people from violating the few prohibitions needed to protect people from force or fraud.
Sadly, the law has become a maze of rules against harmless voluntary acts, thus branding many decent, peaceful people criminals.
Protecting everyone from both crime and police misconduct
The criminal justice system is out of balance and broken. True criminal justice reform to restore equal justice for all will require a top-to-bottom refocusing and rethinking of primary institutions and practices, beginning with the law itself and encompassing the police, the courts, and prisons.
Restoring justice to the criminal justice system
We all want to live in a society where all people, including the police, respect the rights of others. The criminal justice system should protect people from harm through force or fraud. Laws should only prohibit relatively few actions that harm others.
A fair criminal justice system punishes only those who genuinely deserve punishment because they have harmed others, and punishment should be only in proportion to their wrongdoing.
Too many laws make us all criminals
Rather than performing its primary purpose of protecting people from harm, our criminal justice system has been manipulated into a vast array of rules and regulations outlawing many harmless voluntary acts, thus branding as “criminals” a large number of otherwise law-abiding people. Faced with the impossible task of reining in these “criminals,” government officials, from the police to the district attorneys, respond by inventing ways to circumvent civil rights protections.
Toward a wise, fair, and compassionate criminal justice
We can create a wise, fair, and compassionate criminal justice system, but it will require going beyond clichés and catchphrases like “law and order” and “defund the police.”
A crime only occurs when someone uses force or fraud to harm another. If there is no victim, there is no crime. Prohibiting any action that doesn’t hurt someone just because a government official, or even a majority of citizens, thinks it’s wrong is immoral and has no place in a legitimate criminal justice system.
Criminal laws should be limited to prohibiting the violation of the rights of others through force or fraud, or deliberate actions that place others involuntarily at significant risk of harm. Voluntary acts between consenting adults which harm no one should not be outlawed.
Real, practical, effective solutions for criminal justice reform
Repeal all laws creating a crime with no specific victim or property damage identified. Pardon all individuals convicted solely on nonviolent drug charges.
End qualified immunity. Hold all public officials fully accountable and liable for illegal actions even when performing official duties. Investigate all incidents involving a police officer where anyone is harmed. Subject the officer to the same consequences any non-officer would face.
End warrantless searches, reject the militarization of police forces and cease all civil asset forfeiture actions.
Reorient the focus of our criminal justice system from punishment to restitution. Recognize the right of the victim to come to a private settlement with, or even pardon, the criminal.