Do you remember the scene at the end of “Wyatt Earp” where Kevin Costner holds off a lynch mob intent on stringing up a cowboy accused of murder? Me too. What I like about that scene is that it portrays a lawman who cared more for justice than he did for his own skin. He was willing to die to uphold justice. Holding off a mob would have taken some guts, but more importantly it took leadership.
The problem with the justice system in Colorado (and the nation) today is enshrined right there in the mission statements of half of the District Attorneys in the state. At www.AdamsBroomfieldDA.org the DA is charged with both “pursuing justice” and “hold[ing] the trust and respect of the citizens.” Here’s the problem folks: You can’t do both! Either the DA is a politician (nothing like Wyatt Earp) or he’s a lawman. More often than not, DAs choose to be politicians first. They’d rather “pursue” justice and fail than disappoint the mob.
I suspect that’s what has happened with the recent release of the Obama Administration’s Budget for the Department of Justice. According to a newly released report from the Justice Policy Institute, the President has completely abdicated leadership on juvenile justice issues–reducing juvenile justice and delinquency prevention funding by $133 million for FY2011. According to the report, the likely result will be:
… [less] money spent on prevention, and in innovative programs that rely less on incarceration, [which] may result in reduced public safety, more justice-involved youth, increasing racial disparities and diminished life outcomes for [...] youth [that] will impact not just themselves and their families but the health and well-being of communities and the nation as a whole.
In a nutshell: We’re sacrificing long-term solutions for short-term results that will put more kids in adult prisons and turn them into life-long criminals. DAs love this scenario because it means they’ll see half of the children they put in prison again. And the federal government has made it clear: THAT MEANS MORE FUNDING. The cycle will repeat over and over again until we put DAs in their place and let judges do their jobs.
So I’ll say it one more time, “so much for leadership; so long to justice.” We’re quickly becoming a country that prefers mob rule and political imprisonment to “separation of powers” and “justice for all.”