Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Improving The Criminal Justice System

Volokh Conspiracy is publishing an interesting series by Judge Alex Kosinski on improving the criminal justice system. It exploded a few of my myths pretty rapidly. Much of the basic message is A lot of what we "know," we have no evidence for. The actual evidence about prosecutions, criminals, and trials points in a different direction.

When I served on jury duty, I felt we had eventually reached the right conclusion, but it was a near thing. Three things needed to be proven, and I believed the prosecution had established two of them clearly, but not the third.  The rest of the jury believed that none of the three items had been proven, though I can't imagine how.  Their reasons were worrisome, including one woman who said "even the prosecuting attorney admitted the boy might not have been there at the time," when it was in fact the defense attorney who had said that. There was no need to make a stand, because I also thought Point #3 was insufficiently supported, so the boy was getting off anyway.  At the time, I rationalised that maybe this was how the system did indeed "usually get the right answer."  I am now not so convinced, especially after reading Kosinski.

It was personally valuable to me to read it as well.  I was quite depressed about uncovering a significant betrayal by a friend at work, only now revealed a few years later, after he has moved on to a job elsewhere in the system. Reading about the false incarcerations reminded me that my problems are small potatoes.  Pray for those who are innocent but behind bars.

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