Yesterday, I went to the Rebellious Lawyering Conference at Yale Law School. The excellent closing keynote by Purvi Shah talked about although the law says it’s equal, it’s designed to help the people in power.
This made me think of the pigs in George Orwell’s classic “Animal Farm”. That everyone is equal but some are more equal than others.
In the age of lobbying a lot of corporations and billionaires have personal lobbyists. The laws are even sometimes written by these lobbyists. It’s awful. And those in power want to keep it. Those with property and wealth want to keep it. And they often will use criminal justice, the law and policing for those ends.
We like to believe there is equal justice and people are innocent until proven guilty. But the system doesn’t work people end up in jail for months because they can’t afford bail. 90% plus cases end up with plea deals, partially because of a lack of justice, partially due to a lack of public defenders and partially due to laws that can produce insanely high maximum penalties.
We have so far to go and need less people in jail and less draconian sentencing. We were going that way in a bipartisan way, but in Donald Trump’s culture of Law and Order and paranoia, things might be getting worse again.
I am personally very hopeful for a better society even in our frightening age of Trump. We need to give the two million people in prison and the millions more affected by our horrible criminal justice system better lives. We can do it. We can. Even in our bizarre times.