Special to HuntingtonNews.Net

By Michael DeValve

For far longer than any of us have been alive, the U.S. criminal justice system has functioned under the de facto principle that black and brown bodies were objects to be subjected to scrutiny, control, and all too often, state-sanctioned violence. Today we can see that although progress has been made, that progress is minute in comparison to what remains to be done.

The suffering of certain Americans disproportionately at the hands of the justice system is on the surface of a much deeper problem we are facing.  Misguided policing priorities and practices, poor jail conditions, coerced plea bargaining, simplistic thinking about “criminals” and “justice,” patchwork use of restorative techniques amidst a generalized retributive system, mass incarceration, masculinized and militarized law enforcement cultures, threadbare efforts at “rehabilitation,” the drug war, vengeful policymaking, and commodification of justice outcomes prove we have a very big mess to clean up. To clean this mess, we need something much more complete than slow and piecemeal justice reform measures.

Ultimate fault does not reside alone with those who serve as agents of justice service. You and I, through our demands, assumptions, misunderstandings, fears, addictions and attachments have as much responsibility for this mess as we have at stake in it.  We expect the police to do our bidding as taxpayers and yet we hope they look the other way when we are caught speeding.  We tell judges, DAs, police, and mediators that we want justice, but in fact what we mean is that we want the person who hurt us to be hurt worse.   We remain punitive only because we have neglected to see and honor our own incredible ability to be better administrators of a new justice paradigm.

What America needs now is a Manhattan Project on Justice.  We need a concerted, focused, all-encompassing program. We must create a justice system that is intentional in its mechanisms, fully committed to the wellbeing and actualization of every sentient being it serves. Victims, witnesses, and offenders must all be represented and looked after within our new system. 

It will have to be a fundamental reconceptualization, not only of the criminal justice system but also of justice itself.  We must finally realize that our due is, in fact, love: the selfless, courageous, endless wisdom-led service of another human being’s actualization.  The reason our criminal justice system creates more pain than it resolves is that it is founded on fear, authority, and vengeance--not love and truth.  Like a massive coal-fed furnace, as long as our justice system continues to operate, belching out suffering and toxicity more prolifically than healing, we will continue to pollute each other and our collective future. 

The idea that justice is love may seem odd at first, but there is no mistake and no doubt. As frightening as it may be to commit to the well-being of one who has done harm, it is possible and it is in our enlightened self-interest.

I am hereby inviting all humans to express their interest in a better system– to me, to your neighbors and to your representatives for a summit on justice.

 

Michael J. DeValve, Ph.D., syndicated by PeaceVoice, is Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at Fayetteville State University.