One of the basic duties of any government is to seek justice for its citizens and to establish a framework by which individuals who prey on others are held accountable for their actions. Such a framework should allow the accused to face their accusers and have their guilt or innocence considered by a neutral and disinterested third party.
Even a brief peek beneath the surface of the United States’ justice system reveals an institution rife with perverse incentives and rotten to the core from corruption. In just the past month we have seen reports of
- a Nevada cop using civil asset forfeiture to steal almost $90,000 in cash from a man who was charged with no crimes
- a SWAT team in Texas that needlessly caused $50,000 in damage to a home and maimed the family dog of an innocent woman
- the release of a New York man after 16 years in prison on a false rape claim
- A Georgia woman who spent six months in jail for possessing sand that police claimed was cocaine
- The slaying of an 8-year-old girl in Pennsylvania by police, who subsequently charged two teenagers with the murder
These instances are simply the tip of the iceberg. The victims in these cases were fortunate to have their plights brought to light. How many more will never be known because the victims are unable or afraid to come forward and reveal their stories of abuse?
Among the more egregious abuses of this country’s criminal justice system is its use against Julian Assange. Currently facing 18 counts of conspiring to disclose classified information and conspiring to hack a military computer, Assange is in the government’s crosshairs due to his release in 2010 and 2011 of devastating internal reports and videos that revealed in candid detail just how badly the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were being handled by the US government.
Assange has been the target of America’s criminal justice system under three presidents so far, forcing him to flee his native Australia and claim asylum in Ecuador. Just last week the US Justice Department won an appeal in the United Kingdom that has brought them one step closer to extradition to the United States, where he is certain to face the full might of the criminal justice system.
Meanwhile, the two old parties look the other way. Hoping to look “tough on crime,” Republicans have steadfastly refused to even contemplate anything approaching criminal justice reform, preferring instead to double down on protections for dirty cops and prosecutors and fewer protections for the innocent Americans caught up in the corruption. Democrats are content to pay only lip service to criminal justice reform, preferring instead to nominate and elect an old-school drug warrior in Joe Biden and a former prosecutor in Kamala Harris who made a career of incarcerating scores of Americans for non-violent drug offenses while covering for open and obvious corruption in the justice system.
We must do something different. For half a century the Libertarian Party has fought back against the state’s increasingly failed justice system. We demand to see a criminal justice system that respects the right to due process and the presumption of innocence, and a legal framework that leaves consenting adults to live free from punishment for victimless acts.