…today’s secret…Our Criminal Justice System. (Part 1 of 2)

Our criminal justice system is made up of our law enforcement, our courts, and our corrections.

Since America’s founding the underlying question our criminal justice system has tried to answer is…

“How do you change someone who has harmed society into someone who will embrace society?”

Past attempts at answering this question have swung like a pendulum, from southern style chain-gang punishment to northern rehabilitation beliefs – and back again – and then back again – yada, yada, yada…

The system’s darkest hour is convict-leasing, post-Civil War thru the 1920s.


We entered a ‘get tough on crime’ period from the 1980s to the early 2000s that pretty much canceled rehabilitation while creating the world’s largest prison population.

Double Ouch!

Over the last couple of decades we’re trying to re-discover rehabilitation as an answer to re-wiring a person’s criminal behavior…this time with more community involvement…a you broke them so you help fix them thing.

This is not going well because the adults in our country are fighting right now over just about everything, including policing, prosecuting, and prisons.

Until the dust settles, this ‘fond hope’ of rehabilitation is in a wait-and-see mode.

But, while we wait, it’s time to shoot a criminal justice sacred cow.

From the opening of the Walnut Street prison in Philly in 1773 to now, one thinking has prevailed…

…we arrest and prosecute dysfunctional people and put them in dysfunctional prisons and expect them to come out functional.

Next week: Boom. We are going to shoot this cow.

Question: Have we ever had a period of rehabilitation in order to rediscover it? Just askin…