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I’ll admit that our justice system is discriminatory: it favors those who can afford a viable defense and it disfavors the defiant. I’m no sociologist, but I guarantee that defendants represented by private counsel are more apt to receive leniency than those represented by public defenders. Defendants invested in private counsel are more likely to take the advice of counsel seriously and conduct themselves with humility and contrition throughout the judicial process. This garners leniency. These observations are intuitive and cannot likely be proven or reasonably measured; nonetheless, I’m confident they are true and profound.
Consider the state of the poor communities in urban America. Crime rates in these urban areas are legion, but this is not just an African-American problem. The problems of gangs and drugs go hand-in-hand with welfare dependency and persistent single parenthood, and it’s not hard to find pockets of white or Hispanic citizens where these problems persist. In fact, this is not even an urban problem. These problems are epidemic in many small rural towns (especially in California), on the reservation, and in rural Appalachia. That they are most acute in urban black communities does not mean the issue is fundamentally about race.
When politicians like Rand Paul infer that our justice system is racially rigged and propose decriminalizing drugs as the solution, they are not just providing false affirmation of racial discrimination; they are encouraging a defiance of law likely to result in yet more criminal activity and less leniency from the justice system. This is not productive and hurts those to whom they pander.
The decriminalization of drugs is a vast topic worthy of much consideration. Those who say that drug use is a personal decision without consequences for others are mistaken. Whether or not these consequences can be mitigated with government control and regulation remains to be seen. No doubt drugs are a major problem in our poor communities, but they are neither the only nor the biggest problem. The bigger problems are despair and government dependency. A combination of marriage, opportunity, and a rollback of public benefits — welfare, food stamps, housing, healthcare, etc. – are the only ways to solve these problems. People have to gain the means and motivation to abandon dependency and remove themselves from entrenched poverty and areas with intractable crime.
If they make a mistake and get in trouble with the law once they’re out and independent, perhaps they will be able to afford the best defense and begin to bend the demographic trends that politicians portray falsely as proof of discrimination. Remember, OJ Simpson was an African-American man…but a rich one.