America has a complicated relationship with criminal justice, but there are indications that things could be set to change for the better. As the system changes from a Trump-led one to Biden’s administration, Time magazine asserts that much could change with just the stroke of a pen – including the controversial use of the death penalty. By looking at problems endemic in the system today and how they are addressed, interested parties and the new administration can find a way forward to reforming the complex system.
Equal justice under law
The American system works on the presumption of innocence, as any fair system should. However, according to The Atlantic, the presence of the deputy solicitor general, which oversees criminal prosecutions with no equivalent in the world of defense, has biased this argument in favor of the accuser. In turn, this has had an impact on the rights of defendants, and it is alleged that the death penalty and long incarcerations could be inherently unfair. You can read more about criminal defense and how attorneys throughout the country redress the balance, but there is also an argument to be made that the new powers-that-be can be influential in redressing this balance.
A lack of defenders
In 2016, Vox rightly noted that there hasn’t been a single criminal defense lawyer on the Supreme Court for 25 years. This hasn’t changed since then, with the three latest new justices on the Supreme Court not from defense backgrounds. With most presidents given the opportunity to nominate at least one justice, Biden has the chance to put a public defender back into the top court. With that can come change from the very top of the national legal structure; change can also come from the executive.
According to PBS, the Biden campaign was galvanized by support sourced from Black Lives Matter in a year that was marked with significant unrest across the USA. As a result, there is great pressure on him to improve criminal justice. This comes across three categories; voting rights enforcement, improvement of prison conditions, and police reform. If Biden can even start to make headway in these issues, he’ll be in a great place to create a lasting legacy and improve justice in the USA.
For a country often upheld as a beacon of those countries seen as ‘free’, this is an important area of improvement. While the constitution and various mechanisms of power in the USA guarantee a right to justice, it’s not often as clear-cut. Biden has the chance to make these changes.