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The Cost of Justice

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Justice is an idea of moral rightness that is founded on fairness, rationality, religion, natural law, ethics, along with the punishment for contravening the said ethics. Equal access to family and civil justice, which upholds fairness in effective resolution of dispute, is not only a far-reaching, but also a vital component in a democratic society. This is because justice influences people’s lives every day in family relationships, benefit entitlements, credit and contract situations, human rights, distribution and ownership of property, and different corporate agreement. Although justice is such a vital entity in people’s daily lives, the cost of serving and receiving justice has become too much. Gedgoudas (2010) contends that the government has played its part in serving justice to the victims of various family and criminal injustices by spending billions of dollars annually to pay law enforcement officers, judges, lawyers, prosecutors and everybody who works in the justice system. The government has also spent a huge amount of money in building prisons so that the unjust can serve term in these institutions. According to a 2008 report by the Pew Center, over one in every a hundred American adult is in prison or jail. If those on probation or parole are included the figures would be more perturbing because one in every 30 American adult is under correctional supervision. In comparison to the entire population, this country locks up 5 times more people than the U.K, 9 times more than Germany and 12 times more than Japan. As a result, overpopulation in most American prisons is the norm. In fact, federal prisons accommodate 60 percent more inmates than they were designed for. It is evident that the justice system has three big shortcomings. First-off, many people are being locked away for too long for no apparent reason. Secondly, the system criminalizes actions that should not be criminalized. Third, the system is very unpredictable because many laws, particularly federal ones, have been written so vaguely that most Americans cannot tell whether they have contravened them or not. It has reached a point where courts, prisons, defense lawyers, prosecutors, and probation officers are barely able to handle this immense load. All these suspects and prisoners are in custody as a result of the government’s duty to serve justice to its citizens. As a result of these disturbing numbers, the cost of justice has become very high. To begin with, every one in nine state government employee works in America’s justice system (Gedgoudas, 2010). That is a clear indication that the government is spending billions of dollars in salaries and other benefits. According to the American Bureau of Statistics, the government spent over $68 billion on corrections in the year 2006. More than half of this was uses for corrections and police protection. In 2005, it cost the American government an average of $23,900 dollars one every state prisoner. Prison spending in each state varied widely, from over $45 annually in Rhode Island to over $13,000 in Louisiana (U.S Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2008). In 2009, California spent an average of $47,100 annually to jail an inmate in state prison. As a result, the average yearly cost increased by approximately $ 19,500 in California between 2001 and 2009. It costs the U.S government approximately $9 billion to house over 500,000 suspects who cannot afford bail and are awaiting trial each year. Most of these suspects are petty or non-violent offenders. In terms of medical care, it is asserted that medical care for prisoners has growing by 10% every year from 2007. In the year 2007, various states spent over 7% of their budgets on correction. It has been reported that in 2008, over 50 states in this country spend over $49 billion on correction, up from less than $12 billion two decades earlier (U.S Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2008). To ease the overcrowding in jails, states are required to build more jails to accommodate more inmates who are being incarcerated every day. It goes without saying that it is very costly to build such facilities because of security reasons. As a result, the increasing cost for correction is almost six times more than what the government is spending on education. On the other hand, those seeking for justice have been compelled to bear the brunt of the high costs of finding justice. There is enough evidence to show that a significant number of Americans cannot resolve their legal problems such as finding justice through formal litigation. This is because the cost of representation and legal advice in regards to an injustice is beyond the means of middle and low-income earning Americans (Klaus, 2000). There has been an increase in the number of persons appearing in court without legal counsel.

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