If you ask someone about the goals of the criminal just system, they’ll probably talk about reform. They’ll tell you that the goal is to give people punishments — fines, jail time, etc. — to both deter future crime and help them see the “error of their ways.” They’ll then tell you that the hope is that those who spend time in the system want to get out badly enough that, once they do, they’ll never break the law again.
Here’s the problem: That’s not really what the justice system does. These are fine as ideals. They’re not reality. What actually happens in many cases is that people just get trapped in a never-ending cycle of crime that they feel they have no way to escape. The system ironically does the exact opposite of what it is intended to do.
One part of the picture here is that there are lasting ramifications from a conviction that go on even when jail time has been served. One of the most common issues people face is that having a record can make it hard to rent an apartment or get a job.
Say you got arrested for selling drugs while trying to make ends meet. You could spend time in jail, and the authorities would then say you had been rehabilitated. They’d tell you not to do it again. But, if you got out and couldn’t get a job or find a place to live, how do you actually follow their advice? Many people feel forced to turn back to criminal activity because access to legal money-making tactics has now been denied to them.
There are also issues where financial ramifications can escalate out of control. Take the story of a woman who got a parking ticket for $151. In her dire financial situation, she couldn’t pay it. Over the next seven years, she spent nearly a week in jail, went through two arrests and paid a court $550. Even that didn’t take care of it, and she was still in debt for $541 more.
Understanding your options
This cycle is just one of the reasons that it is very important to understand all of your legal defense options if you find yourself facing charges. You can trust us to help when you need it most.