Everything you know about the U.S. criminal justice system is wrong. At all levels it routinely violates people’s rights, imprisons innocent people, countenances highway robbery, and fails to hold corrupt police and prosecutors accountable.
Radley Balko, senior editor and investigative reporter at Reason magazine, spoke March 19 at the New Hampshire Liberty Forum, “to bust open some of the myths that a lot of the public has with our criminal justice system, things you were taught growing up that simply aren’t true.”
A major part of the problem, Balko says, is that law and justice rarely intersect. “Generally what’s just and what’s legal aren’t the same thing, and when they do overlap, it’s usually by coincidence and not by design.”
Frederic Bastiat, in his groundbreaking treatiseThe Law, argued that the purpose of law was to protect each individual’s rights to life, liberty and property. When law goes beyond that, law and justice itself are perverted, corrupted and ultimately destroyed.
But, unfortunately, law by no means confines itself to its proper functions. And when it has exceeded its proper functions, it has not done so merely in some inconsequential and debatable matters. The law has gone further than this; it has acted in direct opposition to its own purpose. The law has been used to destroy its own objective: It has been applied to annihilating the justice that it was supposed to maintain; to limiting and destroying rights which its real purpose was to respect. The law has placed the collective force at the disposal of the unscrupulous who wish, without risk, to exploit the person, liberty, and property of others. It has converted plunder into a right, in order to protect plunder. And it has converted lawful defense into a crime, in order to punish lawful defense. — Bastiat, The Law
Bastiat’s description applies quite well to present day America. Balko explains how these perversions of justice were accomplished in the U.S., and explains how the police and the courts are complicit in the perversion of justice.
Before joiningReason, Balko was a policy analyst at the Cato Institute working on civil liberties issues. His most famous bit of work at the Cato Institute was arguably the map of botched paramilitary police raids. His work has been widely publicized in numerous major media outlets and even quoted by the U.S. Supreme Court.