This essay discusses the American judicial system, it’s funds, costs, and effectiveness in creating a just society for all. It starts off with a simple analysis of what justice truly is, and how law enforcement manipulates people’s moral compasses. It then develops into a question of whether or not America is truly achieving justice within its current judicial system. A few statistics about the American prison system are stated in order to elaborate on the costs to have a functional prison system. After some shocking facts, the essay concludes with an in-depth analysis of whether or not the system’s costs outweigh the benefits it supposedly produces.

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We often equate justice to fairness in modern society, as it should, but we too often miss the chance to accurately measure just and fair acts because we throw the law into the equation. Let’s take an average human being that is taking a shot at life. This man/woman has five children and a deceased spouse, doesn’t qualify for any government assistance programs, has just been released from his/her job due to a downsize within the company, jobs aren’t coming as quickly as he/she thought they would, he/she has no family members or friends to turn to, and is facing eviction within two weeks’ time.

He/she has been presented with the opportunity to sell drugs to generate some form of income, and he/she accepts the offer and makes due before getting evicted. But, he/she was being watched by local detectives and now he/she is facing a 10-year prison sentence. Is his/her conviction just, given his/her circumstances? What is just? What is fair? Are certain laws based on morality, or are they based on fairness regardless of race, sex, etc.? Are we all born with an internal gauge of morality or is it man made? What is moral to one may not be moral to all, so to judge an action or behavior on moral principle is subjective within its own right. “You shall do no injustice in judgement. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty. In righteousness, you shall judge your neighbor” (New King James Version, Leviticus 19:15). Although the bible encourages us to hold justice and fairness with high regard, a great deal of unfair and unjust acts and even court rulings slip by in society, some recognized and most unrecognized. Determining whether or not justice is being achieved in society is a very complex subject, and it requires a lot of varying factors to be taken into consideration.

It is very hard to say that justice in America is being achieved with the recent police shootings that have been plaguing this country. The killing of unarmed citizens, particularly African Americans, has been going on for centuries, but it has finally been brought to the light. In the case of Eric Garner, the outcome turned out to be no indictment, and the officers were not charged with any crime committed (Apuzzo, Goldman, Rashbaum, 2016). In the case of Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman was not charged with any crimes after shooting and killing 17-year-old unarmed Trayvon Martin (cnn.com). One can even take the O.J. Simpson case along with these high-profile police shootings and place it on the scales of justice, and most would agree that justice was not served in any of these cases.

We have to ask questions like: “is the law helping us or hurting us?” “Is the moral compasses of U.S. citizens weakening?” “Is the law really sufficient and effective if, clearly, it bypasses blatant evidence that is impossible to ignore?” In a Washington Post article, Jesse Jackson states that justice is an on-going project that takes patience, and he also claims that America imprisons more people, per capita, than any other developed country on the planet and yet drugs are filling the streets more than ever (2013). We have to take a deeper look into the judicial system and determine its effectiveness.

Kincade states that the American prison system has an estimated turnover of $74 billion, most of which is funded by tax dollars (2017). Kincade also states that in New York, it costs around $60,000 per prisoner to keep each of them incarcerated. This is a lot of money, especially considering the fact that other governmental programs, like public education, lacks resources and financial stability in some areas. Westcott Elementary school, a level 1 school in Chicago, Illinois that is composed of mostly poor minority children, stands to lose close to $75,000 as of March 2017 according to Perez and Garcia of the Chicago Tribune (2017).

With a 74-billion-dollar prison system, there should be no reason for any budget cuts in the school system and crime rates to still be at high levels. The cost of the prison system is enormous, and quite ridiculous in many ways. But we have to ask, does the judicial system work to stop crime and serve justice, or does it simply generate money and employs citizens? If a person is incarcerated for possession of cocaine and has a drug addiction, will the judicial system treat this individual justly and aid him in battling his addiction? Is it more expensive to place him in a drug rehab program versus a prison? If he isn’t cured of his addiction, what are the chances that he will become a repeat offender? Does this mean more money for the prison system?

In a study conducted by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy, researchers found out that crime could be reduced by implementing a program called Functional Family Therapy (FFT), and in addition to this, recidivism was proven to be reduced as well (2013). The benefit-to-cost ratio of implementing the program into areas of high-risk crime offenders came out to be $11.28 of benefits per $1.00 of costs (Aos, Drake, p.4-6). They concluded that FFT not only reduces crime, but it generates a great return on investment (Aos, Drake, p.4-6). However, even with programs like FFT, will we take steps to more effective methods of achieving justice? Will the families of murder victims be okay with sending their relative’s killer to a rehabilitation program instead of capital punishment?