Justice in the Criminal Justice System

The criminal justice system is the set of agencies and processes established by governments to control crime and impose penalties on those who violate laws. For me, justice means that people who commit crimes should pay for it. Of course it's not that black and white; crimes should be considered on a case-by-case basis but I don't think race should ever be a factor in determining sentencing. However, in this day and age, that is exactly what happens; people of color are the largest growing population in prison. 2014 has seen the greatest injustice it has seen in years. Homicides at the hands of police are increasing at a dangerously scary rate. As of late, in most of these cases these police officers often go unpunished. This is not what justice looks like.

To highlight the racial disparities and clear disregard for the criminal justice system I want to look at two cases in Florida: George Zimmerman and Marissa Alexander. The one thing that both of these cases have in common is that both defendants used Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law to justify firing their weapon. The "stand your ground" law states that a person may use deadly force in self-defense without the duty to retreat when faced with a reasonable perceived threat. In other words, a person has no duty to leave a place they are legally entitled to inhabit and are allowed tocommit murder if they face an immediate threat. This law is extremely controversial because it is basically allowing citizens to take justice into their own hands. However, the real injustice is how this law was implemented in these two cases. Any situation where there is a weapon involved is cause to feel threatened, however, that doesn’t necessarily justify their death. George Zimmerman felt the opposite. Trayvon Martin was simply walking home in a predominantly white neighborhood, he was unarmed and 17 years old. He was not a threat. Ultimately this leads us to conclude that he was solely deemed a threat because of the color of his skin, something that he can't help, and something that definitely did not justify his death. Regardless, George Zimmerman is free and out in the world still getting into trouble. Marissa Alexander, a black woman, on the other hand, was the victim in this situation. She fired a warning shot at her very abusive husband, didn't kill him and use "stand your ground" to justify her actions. Precedent i.e., looking at the Zimmerman case, she should've walked away a free woman, she didn't even murder anyone. However, there is no such thing as justice for people of color. Instead she faced three years in jail before being given house arrest. This is not what justice looks like. 

Our justice system that we hold in such high esteem, the one that we try to implement and enforce in nations abroad, fails its own citizens, it failed Trayvon, Marissa, and countless others that as citizens expect the law to do what it was created to do.